Percussionist Scott Feiner fell so deeply in love with the pandeiro, a handheld, tambourine-like frame drum common to Brazilian music, that he moved to Rio de Janeiro from his native New York. Accents is his third album to feature the instrument—there is no other percussion—and for the occasion Feiner reconvened the musicians who accompanied him on the first, Pandeiro Jazz, in 2006: Joel Frahm on tenor and soprano saxophones, Freddie Bryant on acoustic and electric guitars and Joe Martin on acoustic bass. Feiner couldn’t have made better picks, as the quartet is fully in sync from the get-go.
The pandeiro itself is a versatile instrument, tunable and capable of emitting such a wide range of percussive sound that a listener might, at times, be easily fooled into thinking Feiner is sitting at a kit working a snare, hi-hat and bass drum. But the leader knows better than to attempt making his drum the main focus here (although he does intro his original track “7 Na Ciranda” with a mini-solo). If anyone owns the spotlight here, that would be Frahm, who proves quite adventurous within the framework of the Brazilian rhythms. His soprano work, in particular, is well-suited to the album’s moods, and his interaction with Bryant is especially noteworthy. Bryant, for his part, can peel out a tasty solo, but more often he prefers to provide supplementary rhythm, locking in with Feiner and Martin and giving Frahm as much room as he requires to discover.
Although six of the album’s 10 tracks were contributed by group members, two of the highlights are familiar covers. Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” unfolds slowly and never accelerates, but it remains hypnotic as Frahm guides it from place to place. And “Old Devil Moon” moves along at a speedier clip, Feiner and Frahm giving the others a break as they chase each other around.