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January/February 2009

Randy Brecker
Randy in Brasil
MAMA Records

Brazilian music has been in the public ear more than usual during this past year, given the 50th birthday of bossa nova and its multiple celebrations. Bossa, in fact, doesn’t figure much into Randy Brecker’s new Brazilian adventure, Randy in Brasil, but the genre’s spirit and its buoyancy can be felt even when the musical language in question goes in different directions, including contemporary variations on samba—i.e., Brecker’s own self-defining original “Sambop”—and occasionally a glib pop-jazz-fusion direction. Brecker, once married to Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias, has an assured feel for the Brazilian styles he takes on here (as he does for most of the various stylistic territories he deals with).

Recorded at the Banda Sonora Studios in Brazil, with Ruriá Duprat at the production helm, the album showcases material of Brazilian greats, including Gilberto Gil (“Oriente”) and Ivan Lins, whose “Aiaiai” closes the album in a party-ready, sophistofunky mode. At times, the presence of slick electronics is laid on too thickly and there are moments, as in the shamelessly poppy-giddy “Me Leve,” where echoes of Sergio Mendes’ old-school radio-friendly sound prevail. But that bit of Djavan-penned ear candy is immediately followed by the more sophisticated and harmonically searching Djavan tune “Malásia,” one of the album’s prize tracks. The album goes down easily, and is lined with an underlying intelligence you sometimes wish were more at the surface.

Originally published in January/February 2009
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