Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Libertango - Matheus Rodrigues Septet

It would not be fair to say that arrangements of Libertango are a dime-a-dozen but after viewing at least fragments of 2,000 performances of Libertango over the past twenty months, it is fair to say that there are a few memorably bad arrangements, a few memorably good arrangements and a whole lot of totally forgettable arrangements. There are several things that will help me remember Matheus Rodrigues' arrangement and the performance of his septet in today's featured video. The video captures a live performance of the septet at the Savassi Festival in Belo Horizonte, Brazil on 1 August, 2010.

First, the guitar playing of Rodrigues himself - he is confident and creative, reminiscent of a young, but spartan, Al Di Meola. Second the quality of the musicians around him. They are all good but I am particularly struck by the tone and phrasing of Jonatha Max on the trombone and by the steady, solid foundation provided by bassist, Mauricio Ribeiro and drummer, Mateus Espinha. Interestingly, Ribeiro and Rodrigues exchange instruments in the other two videos they have posted and seem equally or more comfortable in that configuration. The arrangement of Libertango moves the lead nicely but I was disappointed not to hear more from the rabeca of Rodrigo Salvador. The rabeca shares an ancestor with the violin and was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese before the luthiers of Cremona had perfected the violin. While it has survived mostly as a folk instrument in rural parts of Brazil, it is enjoying something a revival today and it is interesting to hear jazz sounding from the strings of a rabeca. You can hear the rebeca and appreciate the gypsy-like stylings of Salvador much better in the video of Oito, a Rodrigues composition. The talents of the saxophone players, Leo Barreto and Tiago Ramos, are also more apparent in that video.

This is a tight jazz band developing a style of their own. It is difficult to keep a band this young and this big together long enough to achieve recognition but this group has a shot at making it in the challenging world of jazz. I hope they will include more Piazzolla in their development.

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