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Romero Lubambo: Setembro

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“Virtuoso” is a term used too loosely in jazz criticism, but it absolutely applies to Romero Lubambo. In his hands a guitar becomes an orchestra. He is one of a group of Brazilian musicians who emigrated to the United States long enough ago-30 years in Lubambo’s case-that their birthright breezy sambas have taken on a New York edge. (Duduka Da Fonseca, Claudio Roditi and Helio Alves are others.)

Setembro addresses this cultural duality directly. Its subtitle is “A Brazilian Under the Jazz Influence.” The album can be understood as a companion to its predecessor from 2014, , also on Sunnyside, which was dedicated almost exclusively to Brazilian music played on solo acoustic guitar. Setembro is also a solo recording but divides its loyalties among Brazil’s best-loved composers, pieces from the American Songbook long favored by jazz musicians and originals. Lubambo plays both electric and acoustic jazz guitars.

The crossbreeding of genres here goes beyond repertoire. On “Meditação,” by Jobim, Lubambo’s electric guitar outpouring is oceanic in scope. Its intimacy with Jobim’s unique lyric warmth could only come from a Brazilian; its overall aggression and its surprising single-note lines could only come from a jazz musician. “Darn That Dream” has motivated hardcore jazz improvisers from Monk through Andrew Hill to Vijay Iyer. Lubambo’s version has both jazz bite and voluptuous Brazilian lushness.

It is possible to enjoy tracks like “Love Letters” and “Days of Wine and Roses” for Lubambo’s command of complexity, his counterlines within counterlines. A deeper appreciation comes from the realization that Lubambo’s chops serve beauty. He is a romantic who lavishes vast, rich guitar sonorities that wash over you in waves. Played on a good stereo system, this well-recorded album is ear candy of the highest order.

Originally Published