Seattle-based Brazilian multi-instrumentalist and composer Jovino Santos Neto follows last year’s Veja O Som (See the Sound), a two-CD set of duet collaborations, with Current, a disc of originals featuring his American quintet.
Elegantly arranged and performed, the music on Current touches on several Brazilian styles, including samba, baiao and choro. But, as perhaps might be expected from a musician who spent 15 years as a close collaborator of Hermeto Pascoal, it all comes with a twist. Also, because these musicians have worked with Santos Neto for some time (recording several discs in different configurations) and as a group (leader included), they seem to have a knack for modest brilliance. There’s a disarming ease in how bassist Chuck Deardorf, drummer Mark Ivester and percussionist Jeff Busch set tight, compact grooves with, seemingly, a flick of the wrist—and the music flows, always swinging even as Santos Neto and reedman Harvey Wainapel negotiate tricky time changes and hairpin melodic turns. For the most part, they also forego look-at-me soloing in favor of playing to the overall form, tone and intent of the music.
Check tracks such as “Vivendo No Presente” (“Living in the Present”), “Matraca” (“Rattle”) or “Pra Casa” (“Homeward”), examples of maximum swing with seemingly minimal effort. And then there’s “Sea and Sky,” with its stuttering and zigzagging lines evoking Pascoal’s style, or the title track, with its ska-tinged groove. Making something sound complex is no great challenge. But it takes exceptional musicianship to make this music sound so easy.