"All About Jazz" review
By Chris M. Slawecki
Except for two ballads—the cosmopolitan “Carinhoso” with her Brazilian jazz fusion compatriots Azymuth, and Herbie Hancock’s title track—Ithamara Koorax’s ninth album is her most adventurous release. It seems constructed to honor legendary Brazilian vocalist Flora Purim and her husband/bandleader/percussionist Airto. This Brazilian Butterfly soars and flutters while multiple percussionists (often as many as four on the same song, most often led by the late and legendary Dom Um Romão, with Koorax frequently flailing away among them) knit together, pull apart, then reweave hot thick blankets of Brazilian rhythm.
Romão’s “Amor Em Jacuma” occasions an international jazz jam as Ron Carter’s thoroughly upright acoustic bass and Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s roiling piano set table for a solo helping of meaty trombone from Raul de Souza of Brazil. Pianist Francesco Gazzara lovingly renders Hancock’s title tune, especially in his solo, which builds up chords then reconsiders their construction in equal parts musical architecture and alchemy. Koorax breathes her most romantic vocal, and it’s hard to imagine that many mortals can resist her languid invitation to “Stay awhile…” which just seems to float throughout the air forever, like… a Brazilian butterfly.
The remaining material seems specifically composed and arranged to stress test Koorax’s four-octave range. She swings joyously from the framework of Milton Nascimento’s “Escravos de Jo,” a melodic abstraction airy and inscrutable—not packed full but no less complex—as Joni Mitchell’s Shadows & Light collaborations with Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius. Her voice soars above the Afro-macumba chant “Lamento Negro” and streams bright as dawn to open “Fica Mal Com Deus,” then completely changes tone and color by digging into the low notes with the growling fury of a blasting trumpet.
The opening “O Vento” and closing “Frenetico” drive Koorax’s Brazilian journey further into outer space: Her voice intricately navigates the thorny, shimmering thicket of electric piano and four percussionists in “O Vento” and hangs in “Frenetico,” where the background frame of congas, bass drum and cymbal (not her voice) emerges as the lead instruments. Each is an excellent vehicle for discovering, then remembering, that Brazilian Butterfly is Koorax’s most fertile adventure in exploring the boundaries of contemporary Brazilian vocal music.
Chris M. Slawecki has been published in music industry and related publications for nearly 25 years and has served AllAboutJazz.com as Senior Editor since 1997.
Track listing: O Vento; Escravos de Jó; Amor Em Jacumā; Lamento Negro; Butterfly; Fica Mal Com Deus; Noite de Temporal; A Lenda do Abaeté; Carinhoso; Frenético.
Personnel: Ithamara Koorax: vocals, percussion, mouth percussion; Dom Um Romão: drums, percussion, vocals; Paula Faour: electric piano, keyboards; Manuel Gusmão: acoustic bass, arco bass; José Carlos Ramos: flutes, baritone saxophone; Arnaldo DeSouteiro: percussion; Eloir de Moraes: percussion, cymbals, bass drum, vocals; Carlos Fuchs: acoustic piano; Jorge Pescara: fretless bass, electric bass; Raul de Souza: trombone; Gonzalo Rubalcaba: acoustic piano; Ron Carter: acoustic bass; Laudir de Oliveira: percussion; Jadir de Castro: percussion; Nelson Angelo: acoustic guitar; Sidinho Moreira: bongos, percussion; Marcelo Salazar: congas, bongos; Francesco Gazzara: acoustic piano, rhodes electric piano, nylon-string guitar; Massimo Sanna: bass; Mauro Mirti: percussion; Eduardo Piloto Barretto: percussion; Thiago de Mello: acoustic piano, organic percussion, vocal effects, acoustic guitar, berimbau; José Roberto Bertrami: rhodes electric piano; Alex Malheiros: electric bass; Ivan Conti: drums; Carlos Malta: bass flute.