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Sammy Figueroa & Glaucia Nasser: Talisman

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Before percussionist Sammy Figueroa proved himself masterful at everything from bebop and vocalist accompaniment to rock and R&B-with a résumé stretching from Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and Mark Murphy to Blondie, David Bowie, Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin-he cut his musical teeth in Brazilian/Latin fusion as co-founder, with guitarist and bandleader Bobby Valentín, of the Raices.

Though his passion for Latin jazz has never diminished, session work and tours with international headliners have dominated his career. Now the American-born Figueroa makes a welcome return to his roots alongside vibrant Brazilian vocalist Glaucia Nasser.

Though the recording, at NaCena Studios in São Paulo, was done old-school style, with Figueroa incorporating such traditional instruments as the Brazilian pandeiro and Cuban batá and classic Puerto Rican bomba and Uruguayan candombe rhythms into the mix, this isn’t your grandfather’s Latin jazz. All 10 of the tracks are fresh and new, including several co-written by Nasser and bandmates Bianca Gismonti (piano) and Chico Pinheiro (guitar). The mood is in constant motion, shifting from gloriously festive (“Cuando Eu Canto”) and sun-dappled (“Talisman”) to romantically anticipatory (“Encontro”) and ruminative (“E Quando Quero,” “Passos,” “Abrigo”). Though the entire 45-minute session is impressive, most powerful are two very different though loosely linked tributes: the ebullient “Ilu-Ayê (Terra de Vida),” which salutes the influence of African traditions on Brazilian culture; and, sung in English, the gently flowing paean “Mandela.”

Originally Published