Since arriving in New York 21 years ago from his native Rio de Janeiro, guitarist Romero Lubambo quickly established himself with Trio da Paz (with drummer Duduka da Fonseca and bassist Nilson Matta) while also becoming an in-demand sideman prized for his accompaniment skill in both Brazilian and jazz idioms. On Softly, his fifth solo recording, Lubambo accompanies himself via multiple guitar overdubs.
While the general tenor of this production tends toward the mellow side, it is not without flashes of Lubambo’s signature virtuosity. On the melancholy bossa nova “Nature’s Beauty,” he melds Wes-styled octaves with Brazilian comping while also offering a strangely compelling solo on a fretless guitar. “Vitoriosa” finds Lubambo playing the soothing melody on a classical guitar while providing interlocking accompaniment on another nylon-string ax and a Parker electric solid-body. Bill Withers’ “Just the Two of Us” is rendered here as a soothing bossa nova with more Wes-styled octaves thrown into the mix and a whistle sample added to his dazzling classical guitar solo (with a guitar-synth pickup in his Casa Gonzalez guitar). The fretless guitar returns on Lubambo’s buoyant samba “Fly So High,” an original which utilizes five different stringed instruments including the high-pitched Brazilian cavaquinho. Lubambo’s burning single-note solo on the fretless here sounds like a virtuoso jazz cellist stretching out.
Elsewhere on this tasty collection, Lubambo strikes some emotional depth on his profoundly moving bossa nova, “Heaven Here,” and renders jazz standards like “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” and “I Fall in Love Too Easily” with uncommon tenderness. He also turns the bluesy Bob Dorough number “Comin’ Home Baby” into a seductive bossa nova and adds a touch of Brazilian bounce to Sammy Cahn’s “Time After Time.” Other than the two ill-advised examples of synth dabbling, this is pure, unadulterated brilliance and comes highly recommended to guitar aficionados.