Brazilian-born, now New York-based acoustic bassist and bandleader Nilson Matta finds distinctive, sometimes unexpected ways to present well-known compositions on EastSideRioDrive. Matta is joined by a stellar group of players-including saxophonist Craig Handy, flutist Anne Drummond, guitarist Romero Lubambo, pianist Edsel Gomez and percussionist Cyro Baptista-and he utilizes them to great effect in a variety of combinations, all anchored by his eloquent, melodic bass work.
The set kicks off with the Matta original “Sertao,” a sparkling full-band Brazilian dance number with a stick-in-your-head melody, set aloft by Lubambo’s rhythmic guitar and Jesse Lynn’s vibrant vocals. Matta opens his cover of Charles Mingus’ “Boogie Stop Shuffle” with an agile solo, and then he and the ensemble take off, turning the familiar tune into a freewheeling jam driven by Handy, Drummond and Gomez’s inventive soloing.
Gomez gracefully takes the lead on the J.C. Costa Netto/Eduardo Gudin composition “Verde,” here performed as a trio feature with Matta and drummer Vince Cherico. Matta’s take on Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” features unconventional instrument choices, namely Handy’s bass clarinet and Lubambo’s delicate guitar, which combine to create a rich, poignant and unique reading of this oft-covered classic.
Of course there’s a pair of Jobim standards. Matta and Drummond perform “Mojave” as a flute-bass duet, their version so expressive that no additional instrumentation is needed. The band’s lush instrumental version of “Angela” spotlights lovely lyrical performances by Drummond and Handy.