Duduka da Fonseca: Jive Samba

If you think that Brazilian-influenced jazz might be a bit passé, you don’t know Duduka. Drummer Duduka da Fonseca, that is, who wrote the book on Brazilian drumming, literally, with his Brazilian Rhythms for Drumset, first published in 1993. Ever since he moved to the U.S. from his native Rio de Janeiro in 1975, the two-time Grammy nominee has been a mainstay of the lively New York City Brazilian jazz scene, a first-call session drummer and the pulsating heart of no fewer than four concurrent groups, including the Brazilian Trio (with pianist Helio Alves and bassist Nilson Matta) and the formidable Trio da Paz (with Matta and guitarist Romero Lubambo), a New York-based quintet with multi-reeds player and Brazilophile Anat Cohen, and a Brazil-based piano trio.

The simple, ambitious idea for this album is to take 10 Brazil-inspired masterpieces by great American jazz composers-Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and John Scofield among them-and play them with more of a Brazilian accent. This he accomplishes brilliantly with his Rio-based trio of David Feldman on piano and Guto Wirtti on bass.

Jive Samba is the perfect title for such a project, embodying the two musical cultures in a phrase. It’s also the title of the beloved jazz standard written by Nat Adderley and originally recorded by his brother’s quintet in 1962. It’s a tribute to Feldman’s ability to make the piano sing that one does not miss the tune’s iconic Cannonball alto sax lead.

The trio (plus guest saxophonist Paulo Levi) gives Henderson’s irresistible “Recorda-Me” an adrenaline-fueled treatment, beginning with a fascinating drum solo in which da Fonseca displays his mastery of polyrhythms, but with such a delicate touch that the sticks sound as feathery as brushes. There’s a haunting take on Hancock’s intricate “Speak Like a Child” and killer versions of Shorter’s “El Gaucho” and Corea’s “Samba Yantra.” Jive Samba is convincing proof, if anyone needs it, that the Brazilian/American jazz idiom still offers peaks with awesome vistas for those musical explorers with the skill and daring to scale them.