Roni Ben-Hur/Santi Debriano Featuring Duduka Da Fonseca : Our Thing

The occasion that produced Our Thing, a set of exquisitely played originals, jazz standards and Jobim tunes, must have been darn picturesque: Guitarist Roni Ben-Hur and bassist Santi Debriano played in a 12th-century church at Festi Jazz, the summer festival the two founded in the village of Saint Cezaire near the French Riviera. Those of us not fortunate enough to take in that concert, a trio show with Duduka Da Fonseca on drums, nevertheless can enjoy the lovingly performed and rendered recording.

The entire affair is relaxed, playful, alternately given to sly swinging and bossa or samba grooves, and characterized by the brown hues and appealing tonal textures of the leaders’ instruments, including Debriano’s occasional arco work. The trio begins strong with Thelonious Monk’s “Green Chimneys,” trick-started with syncopated rhythms. The bouncy melody leads into a sprawling, warm guitar solo, followed by the bassist’s high-flying derring-do and well utilized open space for Da Fonseca. The disc is capped with a fresh, Brazilian-fried reading of Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” In between are two other familiar gems: a shimmering, laidback version of Jobim’s “Fotografia” and a similarly tinted rendition of his “Ela É Carioca.”

The originals shine, too. Debriano’s title track is open and airy, with quick shifts and surprising detours, while his blues-tinted “Afroscopic” is limned with Afro-Cuban rhythms and the slow-moving “Suave” hints at North African influences. Ben-Hur offers a pretty, stately ballad, “Anna’s Dance,” and the boppish, brushes-fired “Earl’s Key,” bolstered by loads of interplay among the three New York-based musicians. Given the gorgeous music and idyllic setting, could a companion DVD be forthcoming?

Philip Booth

Philip Booth is a longtime arts journalist and bass player based in Florida. Formerly the pop music critic for the Tampa Tribune, he has contributed to many national publications, recently including the Washington PostJazziz, and Relix. His byline also has appeared in DownBeat, Bass Player, Billboard, Variety, Spin, Rolling Stone, and several academic journals. The debut CD from his band, Acme Jazz Garage, gained airplay on about 35 radio stations across the US.