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01/27/12

Duduka Da Fonseca
Plays Toninho Horta
Zoho

With Duduka Da Fonseca, you get two percussionists for the price of one. He is a master of intricate South American rhythmic forms, and a drummer who can kick your ass four beats to the bar.

Da Fonseca, who grew up in Brazil and moved to New York in 1975, has made excellent records as a leader and in cooperative ensembles like Trio Da Paz, Brazilian Trio and HD2. But he has never made an album as continuously seductive as this one. When he collaborates with a pianist, it is usually Helio Alves. Here it is David Feldman, from Rio de Janeiro. The bassist, from southern Brazil, is Guto Wirtti. Feldman does not possess Alves’ extravagant chops (few do), but he is an elegant, lyrical player with a touch that makes the piano sing.

The program contains nine songs by Brazilian singer-songwriter/guitarist Toninho Horta. The chord inversions are distinctive, yet Horta’s compositions are quintessentially Brazilian in their melodic grace and in their subtle, insistent rhythmic flow. The album feels like a suite, a set of variations on a single, sensual aesthetic. Songs like “Bicycle Ride” and “Waiting for Angela” sound familiar. Perhaps their pristine melodies have always existed in the human subconscious.

These instrumental versions of Horta’s poetic songs are heartfelt and affectionate yet open to improvised elaboration by each member of the trio, including Da Fonseca. His solos are always personal, whether soft (“Aqui, Oh!”) or hard (“Retrato Do Gato”). He also makes this whole album glide with the samba pulse of life. Somewhere deep down, your body already knows this music.

Originally published in January/February 2012
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