Trombonist/arranger Phil Wilson has found himself gracing the bands of jazz great Woody Herman, arranging chart-topping and Grammy-nominated standards, and serving as an award-winning educator at the famed Berklee College of Music. This offering with friends and colleagues is ripe with the warmth and richness of Jobim’s gorgeous melodies, played effortlessly by a cast of veteran pros who gracefully re-shape these long-familiar classics with a balance of innovation and good, old-fashioned musicality.
The opener, “Desafinado,” is wrapped in a lilting and angular bass line that simultaneously anchors and lets sail the lush solos. Wilson’s warm tone is complemented beautifully by the ensemble, and the standout here is Matt Marvuglio on bass flute-Jobim’s tunes seem perfectly suited to these dreamy, low-register “voices.” In “Corcovado” the improvisational conversations are vivid, with sparkling solos and punctuations by pianist Dario Eskenazi and guitarist Larry Baione and the rock-solid foundation established by drummer Mark Walker and bassist Oscar Stagnaro. Eskenazi’s gorgeous rubato intro on “Triste” sets the tone for this uptempo samba, letting the interplay between Wilson and Marvuglio ride off into the sunset after an all-too-brief but tasty drum solo. “Amor em Paz” and “Samba de Uma Nota So” (“One Note Samba”) keep the energy high in the samba vein, followed by the relaxed and moody “Insensatez,” probably one of Jobim’s most introspective pieces.
Wilson literally speaks to us through his instrument, never leaving us wanting or needing to hear the lyrics, and in his solos he often inserts snippets of familiar (and un-related) material, from Perez Prado to Prokofiev. Walker then takes us to #Carnaval# in Rio with his #batucada# intro on the vibrant samba “Chega de Saudade,” setting up the ever-so-happy groove for solos by the ensemble. The closing three numbers-“O Grande Amor,” “Look to the Sky” and “Vou te Cantar,” remind us of the tenderness in Jobim’s melodic writing, his penchant for the juiciest possible harmony, and the daunting task of re-invention facing any arranger who dares tackle these internationally known tunes. Wilson and bassist Stagnaro have artfully and respectfully arranged Jobim’s music while staying true to the rhythmic power of Brazil’s many inspiring genres.