There is a coterie of important Brazilian jazz musicians who keep reappearing on one another’s albums. Four of them are on Simpatico: trumpeter Claudio Roditi, drummer Duduka da Fonseca, guitarist Romero Lubambo and pianist Helio Alves. A significant fact about this group is that they have all lived in the United States since the 1980s or earlier. Their Rio roots are deep, but so are their New York jazz bona fides. What they play is their own genre: more sensual than hardcore jazz, tougher than sweet sambas.
Simpatico announces the arrival of Claudio Roditi as a composer. All 12 songs are his, and they sound like his warm, luminous, intelligent trumpet playing, organized and extended into ambitious forms. “Alfitude” is a tribute to a Brazilian composer whom Roditi reveres, Johnny Alf. It is a hypnotic, swaying, circling reverie, with concise, vivid tributes from Roditi and Alves and trombonist Michael Dease. “Slow Fire” is like a long sigh of sadness.
Roditi’s compositional gift is to create lines of deceptively simple lyricism that linger in the mind. “A Dream for Kristen” is another, and inspires quietly passionate exchanges between Roditi and Lubambo. All the songs, whether rapt and poignant or fast and harmonically sophisticated (“Spring Samba,” “Slammin’”), move like light-footed dancers. The universal appeal of Brazilian jazz is how measured, melodic emotion is energized from within by subtle, invincible rhythm. Da Fonseca may be the best in the world at motivating and sustaining that special vital pulse. “How Intensitive” and “Vida Nova” catch you up in their irresistible thrust and celebration