On Notes Over Poetry, Philippe Baden Powell shares two sides of himself: able bandleader and enthusiastic sideman. The agile pianist—he picked a different instrument than his father, guitarist Baden Powell—leads a substantial rhythm section through tracks that showcase either himself or a guest, with about equal time given to both situations. By doing so, Powell provides a stage on which there is never a dull moment: Poetry is a lively read from start to finish, with stanzas coming from various directions and voices.
The strongest effort with a guest comes early in the album via “Notes Over the Poetry,” featuring Marlon Moore on spoken word. Over a noble, Roy Ayers-ish funk groove, Moore offers lofty lines like “My soul consists of following the many intricacies of finding oneself/Knowing that the ideal self will eventually keep erupting inside, wanting to proceed.” Another standout is “Recado Pra Você,” featuring the restrained but magnetic singing of Paula Tesser. And the happy “Hues” is imbued with the charming scat vocals of David Linx.
The cuts that push Powell to the front are compelling, too. The sexy instrumental “Vamos Donatear?” includes some alluring tenor saxophone. The gentle piano-trio jam “For You to Know” features a riff you couldn’t be blamed for singing along to. And on “Chica” and “Quem Sabe?,” the leader sings softly and directly. If there’s one thing to be taken away from Poetry, it’s that branching out doesn’t weigh you down.