Saturday, October 10, 2015
USA/BRAZIL: Michel Nirenberg-Portrait (2015)
On a mission to share the true wealth of Brazilian music, talented young saxophonist and composer Michel Nirenberg offers Brazilian jazz infused with the appealing sounds of samba, choro, forró and maracatu rhythms.
At the age of 25, award winning saxophonist and composer Michel Nirenberg has attracted some of the finest Brazilian and Latin jazz players available to record his debut album Retrato/Portrait on indie label Carioca Music. They are at once his musical colleagues and mentors, drawn to make music that sails across geographic and stylistic borders.
With this album of contemporary Brazilian instrumental music, Nirenberg and co-producer Leonardo Lucini aim to share the fullness of Brazilian music at the intersection of jazz. While this album clearly demonstrates that samba is still alive and kicking, it also reveals that Brazilian music is so much more than the samba and Bossa Nova styles introduced to the States in the Sixties.
The tunes include a fascinating range of styles including choro, the first characteristically Brazilian genre of urban popular music. Characterized by virtuosity, improvisation, and subtle modulations, it is full of syncopation and counterpoint and Nirenberg has the wherewithal to treat it in lively new ways.
On a mission to share the true breadth of Brazilian music, Nirenberg also performs the distinctive forró and maracatu rhythms of Brazil. The album also breathes new life into the samba and reflects a deep grounding in straight ahead jazz.
Retrato/Portrait boasts Brazilian musicians such as virtuosos Leonardo Lucini on bass and Alejandro Lucini on drums and guitarist Rogério Souza. Argentine guitarist Dani Cortaza and American pianist Alex Brown complete the roster of international musicians at his side. In working with this international band, Nirenberg has made good use of his language skills (he is
fluent is English and Spanish as well as Portuguese). He is well equipped to take his place the realm of world music and jazz. Visit http://www.michelnirenberg.com for more.
The album opens on a joyous note with two traditional choro tunes combined. “Chorinho em Aldeia is by Severino Araújo; “Na Glória” is by Raul de Barros and Ari dos Santos. The tunes are linked by a melee of shouting voices, conveying the chaos and excitement of a Brazilian feira (open market). Argentine guitarist Dani Cortaza joins Nirenberg. Rio-born brothers Leonardo and Alejandro Lucini (now domiciled in Silver Spring, Maryland), handle the rhythm section with nuanced precision.
Nirenberg’s alluring “À Deux” brings in the talents of pianist Alex Brown, best known for his work as a member of the Paquito D’ Rivera band. The song goes through several transformations involving classical tango, cha-cha, and swing.
Guitarist Dani Cortaza returns in “Forró From the South,” and Bruno Lucini takes over percussion. Forró is a popular dance style from the Northeast of Brazil. Nirenberg uses it to pay tribute to the state of Virginia, where he attended graduate school.
Composed by Chico Buarque and Edu Lobo, the beloved ballad “Beatriz” on Track 4 provides a peaceful and nostalgic interlude in this essentially cheerful disc. Brown and Nirenberg perform the duo instrumental version.
Track 5 boasts Leonardo Lucini’s arrangement of the Ellington/Tizol classic “Caravan” in a syncopated 7/8 version, employing the samba and partido alto rhythms from Rio de Janeiro, giving it a distinctively Brazilian flavor. This version was developed for a special Kennedy Center program, and has proven to be an arresting crowd pleaser.
Track 6 is a solo performance by Nirenberg of Garoto’s choro waltz ”Desvairada.” The technically challenging song is infrequently performed, but Nirenberg finds the choro waltz beautiful. “It reminds me of classical music,” he says, “with the ascending and descending lines and arpeggios, like a Bach solo partita or cello suite.”
Nirenberg’s “Menina de Avental” fills Track 7. This fast traditional samba was inspired by a lady he saw looking beautiful in a charming apron (avental) while cooking. It is reminiscent of “Manhã de Carnaval” (Black Orpheus) by Luis Bonfa. Cortaza and
company make it cook.
“Lonely” marks a return to the ballad form and captures a difficult time for the young composer. He wrote it for a beautiful young woman who had no interest in hearing it. Alex Brown captures the feeling beautifully on piano.
Track 9’s “Samba da Virgínia” is another up-tempo samba. It features venerated seven-string Brazilian guitarist Rogério Souza, with Cortaza, Nirenberg, and the Lucini brothers. It begins with a samba before a marchinha groove is introduced. “Marchinhas”
(small marches) are a typical Brazilian Carnival rhythm. The C-section is a contemporary samba groove, with sax/guitar duet and slapping electric bass comping. The D-section enlists the Maracatu rhythm from the state of Pernambuco in northeastern Brazil.
The album ends with “Santa Morena,” a traditional choro in 3⁄4 by Jacob do Bandolim. Nirenberg’s contemporary arrangement reshapes the song into four sections. Cortaza and the Lucini’s are good travel companions, moving the tune from choro waltz to rock’n roll and jazz waltz before returning to the opening choro.A bonus track, “Forró From the South 2,” lets Nirenberg play loose with many musical styles on his palette.
In the coming years, Nirenberg will perform in the U.S. and Brazil. In addition to the music of Retrato/Portrait, he has already written many new works in classical, jazz, and Brazilian styles for small ensembles and big band.