A love letter to Brazil, this aural travelogue blends tenor saxophonist Bob Mintzer’s compositions with tracks by Baden Powell, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Chico Pinheiro, a São Paulo guitarist and vocalist whose version of “Corcovado” transforms Jobim’s glittery ennui into subtle swing.
The musicianship of all involved, including fellow Yellowjacket Russell Ferrante on piano, makes Mintzer’s Los Angeles big band run like clockwork, and Marty Ashby’s production is clean and even, allowing Mintzer’s varied voicings to shine. This is a summery album, nimble and generally lighthearted. Mintzer’s title track is a delight, setting flutes against guitar until they mesh behind Frank Basile’s baritone saxophone and Mintzer’s own tenor. Mintzer has fun with his arrangements.
More twisty and serious: Mintzer’s danceable, tricky “Recife,” a sharply articulated, brassy celebration of a city in northern Brazil. The percussion of Alex Acuña, blended with Peter Erskine’s worldly drums, keeps the track moving. Scott Wendholt’s bright trumpet and the urgent bass of Lincoln Goines warm the unpredictable tune.
Listen to this in a car and you miss the dynamic range. Listen to it on headphones and the nuances shine. What comes through above all is Mintzer’s command of contrast: Pinheiro’s “Irrequieto,” one of the hottest cuts, sets high flutes against low saxes while hard, chorded brass mediate, paving the way for a fluid Pinheiro guitar solo that checks and so dramatizes the tune’s aggressiveness. The rhythm section burns behind Pinheiro’s continental cool.
That cool also rules “Um Filme,” a showcase for Pinheiro’s guileless, knowing vocals and filigreed guitar. It’s a sneaky cut, suggesting Pinheiro deserves an album of his own. But Pinheiro isn’t the only standout here. Bob Malach’s tenor sax lends grit to Mintzer’s “Ouro Preto,” and Mintzer himself animates “Aha,” the bouncy opener, as well as the title track. File this smooth album under stimulating.