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Kenny Barron: Canta Brasil

A kind of sequel to 1993’s Sambao, Kenny Barron’s first full recording of Brazilian music, Canta Brasil, finds the great jazz pianist in the company of a seasoned, self-contained Brazilian unit in Trio da Paz. Barron melds his elegant touch and harmonic daring to the inherent allure of samba grooves created by drummer Duduka Da Fonseca, bassist Nilson Matta and acoustic guitarist Romero Lubambo along with special guests Valtinho on percussion and Anne Drummond on flute. The mix is particularly intriguing on the album’s opener, “Zumbi,” a high-energy number paced by Da Fonseca’s driving baiao beat, and on Matta’s buoyantly swinging “Paraty.” Barron takes the most harmonic liberties on Da Fonseca’s infectiously grooving Afro-samba “Dona Maria,” which showcases the pianist’s deft, inventive streak within the framework of these quintessentially Brazilian grooves.

The remarkable Lubambo distinguishes himself as a fearless, burning soloist on pieces like “Zumbi” and “Paraty” before downshifting and caressing his nylon strings in serene fashion on the unabashedly sensual “Clouds,” which also features some beautifully lyrical playing from Drummond. Barron colors this piece with subtle shadings and gentle comping before adding his own profoundly lyrical solo statement to the proceedings.

Barron’s eloquent unaccompanied intro on “Until Then” is a tasty lead-in to a seductive bossa nova that prominently features Drummond while also highlighting some dynamic playing by Barron in the second half of the piece. The feel of the rhythm section here is all finesse and selfless unity. Lubambo showcases his most dazzling playing on his own fiery “Bachiao,” a runaway baiao romp that elicits similarly superb playing from Drummond, Barron and Da Fonseca. This mixed Brazilian-American crew closes on an easy-breezy note with the pianist’s lilting “This One.”

Philadelphian Barron embraces this music like a native Brazilian while imbuing each track with his immense musicality, helping to consummate this marriage of jazz and samba on his own regal terms.

Originally Published