There isn’t a weak moment anywhere on the two-disc expanse of Ouro Negro (Adventure), a gripping Moacir Santos retrospective produced by saxophonist Ze Nogueira and guitarist Mario Adnet and supervised by Santos himself. The octogenarian composer and conductor, based in L.A. by way of Pernambuco, remains one of Brazilian music’s leading lights. The 28 tracks herein are new recordings of Santos songs spanning 1965 to 1975, although a smattering of later works are also included. A feast of sublime melody, textural diversity and rhythmic polish, the collection was recorded in Rio in early 2001 with a crack team of studio players and soloists, with guest vocals by Gilberto Gil, Djavan, Milton Nascimento, Joao Bosco and Ed Motta as well as Sheila Smith, Muiza Adnet, Joyce, Joao Donato and even Santos, whose humble murmur takes on a heavenly quality. The aesthetic is something like plugged-in Maria Schneider meets Steely Dan and early Chicago, but Santos’ melodies are singular in their unpredictable beauty.
David R. Adler