After Carnival-- New World Beat

Leader Richard Sprince describes this CD by his Miami-based group New World Beat as follows: "I like to imagine the project as the adoptive love child of Pat [Metheny], Milton [Nascimento], and Airto [Moreira], maybe getting a little love from Return to Forever, too." Add a touch of Weather Report and the picture is more or less complete. As vibraphonist, composer, producer, arranger, editor, and mixer (with "mixing advice" from Gary Burton), Sprince manages to make this concoction sound both natural and unforced. The top-notch musicians assembled here in no small measure help Sprince achieve his goals.

The buoyant "Beyond the Clouds" is the opener, and features an outstanding eight-string guitar solo by Tom Lippincott. The mood-changing "On My Way," with its graceful legato theme, is enhanced by Matt Vashlishan's soaring solo on the EWI sax synthesizer, and a melodic one from Lippincott. For "The Dance Has Just Begun," the melody's exposition is offered by Vashlishan's soprano sax and the vocal team of Tony Cruz and Terezinha Valois. Vashlishan and guest guitarist Gary Damanti create swirling improvisations. Sprince's arrangement stirs up various Brazilian beats to captivating effect, and a vibes and vocal chorus bring this track to a rousing conclusion.

"After the Carnival" is an insinuating samba that finds Lippincott wailing on guitar, while Vashlishan's mellifluous soprano sound elevates his wide-ranging, vibrant solo. The Brazilian rhythms of "Partido Alto" provide the basis for still two more impassioned statements by Lippincott and Vashlishan. "Song for Brazil" is a yearning ballad that presents poignant improvs by first Sprince and then guest artist Jorge Pardo on flute. The melodic content is enriched by the voices of Cruz and Valois. Pat Metheny's classic "Last Train Home" is adorned by Sprince's lyrical vibes, Vashlishan's ingratiating EWI, and the affirmative Portuguese vocalizing of Cruz and Valois (lyrics by Cruz).

"Adios, Buenos Aires" is an appealing tango played by Vashlishan on alto before an effective vocal chorus backed by Sprince's ringing ostinato. The altoist then embarks on a stimulating exploration. "Fantasia de Carnival" blends free jazz in its intro and finale with a rocking bossa foundation in between that both supports and propels Vashlishan's silky smooth alto solo. The theme itself is a memorable one. Vocal harmonies and bossa nova and samba rhythms are key ingredients of "It's Not Far," with concise but meaningful fretless bass (Diogo Oliviera Brown), guitar, and vibes solos interspersed.

Another Metheny tune, "Sueño Con Mexico," closes out the program, with vibes and alto developing the punchy melody. Vibes and alto solos emerge from vocal and percussive backdrops that include bird whistles, bells, and shakers. Bassist Brown, along with nylon string guitarist Cezar Santana, drummer Goran Rista, and percussionist Dwili Dewongy are to be credited with establishing and perpetuating the grooving rhythms heard and enjoyed throughout this recording.

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Scott Albin