Carlos Barbosa-Lima: Frenesi

If Brazilian music has an official instrument, it is the nylon-string guitar, so we begin with Carlos Barbosa-Lima’s Frenesi (ZoHo). Lima is a classical virtuoso, but over the last 20 years he’s explored the music of Scott Joplin, the Beatles and many others. This lyrical session, previously released as Natalia by the Khaeon label (ZoHo’s predecessor), focuses on music by an array of Latin American composers. We hear Lima in solo settings or with John Benitez on bass (four tracks), Gustavo Colina on the cuatro (five tracks) and Edgardo Aponte on percussion (four tracks). Beginning with “Chega de Saudade” and ending with “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” (a pretty song, let’s admit), Lima gives loving attention to every melody and produces a beautiful, bell-like tone. He and Benitez don’t always jell-the time feel on the opener is a bit rough, and Lima’s bass notes, in conjunction with Benitez’s, can sometimes muddy the waters. Lima’s solo performances, particularly on a pair of contrasting pieces by the Cuban modernist Leo Brouwer, are far more satisfying. The cautro/guitar duets, mainly on pieces by Antonio Lauro (“Natalia,” “El Nino,” “Angostura”), are wonderfully lighthearted, with the quality of Baroque parlor music. In May 2005 look out for Lima’s Carioca, which will feature more of these.