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April 2004

Oscar Castro-Neves
Playful Heart
Mack Avenue Records

Oscar Castro-Neves is so much more than an old-school bossanoveiro of well established and documented repute. Playful Heart (Mack Avenue), reasserts that fact. Nary an aspect of the production was not enhanced by his musical prodigy. "Four Brothers" showcases Castro-Neves' excellent rearrangement, as well as his tightly swung single noted multi-instrumental relevance, as reedist and flutist Gary Meek follows the original's melodic swing with bounciness of his own and noteworthy candor in tone and expression. It's a cooking swinger. The celebrated guitarist's "Twenty Year Love Affair"-a melodic restructuring of the harmonic structure of Jobim's "Wave"-enamors one's listening with ease. Violinist Charlie Bisharat, whose intonation is crystalline as is his heartfelt playfulness, takes upon that one with quite a purpose. Later, paired with Don Grusin on acoustic piano, the leader's own ever-refreshingly smart guitar playing is featured in a restatement of "Wave" itself. A Grusin and Castro-Neves collaboration could hardly be expected not to work and, of course, it does. Both prove wisely economical and to the harmonic point, with melodic beauty to boot. Alas, this record features the Bill Evans-inspired guitarist as a singer. Given his phrasing in Jobim's "Waters of March," why did it take him so long to do so?

Originally published in April 2004
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