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Vinicius Cantuária & Bill Frisell: Lágrimas Mexicanas

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This sometimes intoxicating collaboration between mild-mannered guitar hero Bill Frisell and guitarist-singer Vinicius Cantuária, a Brazilian living in Brooklyn, might come as a surprise for anyone following Frisell’s discography. Then again, it might not: It may have been inevitable that Frisell would sooner or later turn his musical energies toward Brazil. Both Brazilian music and Frisell-ian music operate in the expressive areas where lyricism and experimental instincts meet and often thrive.

But that merging of jazz and Brazilian sensibilities tells only part of the story. Having guested on each other’s projects, and with Cantuária supplying an integral voice on Frisell’s worldly The Intercontinentals, they have shared history and ample simpatico. That connection goes deeper on this genuine collaborative effort, with co-written songs. Switching between Portuguese, Spanish and English, Cantuária sings with a supple, understated charisma on tunes like the title track; his ode to his adopted home of Brooklyn, “Calle 7”; and the seductive lull of “Aquela Mulher.”

After playing much of the album’s songs in a relatively straight way, with Frisell’s sonic debris and asides in the corners of the tracks, the guitarist’s inner deconstructionist comes out to play at album’s end. “Briga de Namorados” is a bubbly, folkloric sweetie of a tune, but one that melts into an impressionistic passage replete with Frisell’s trademarked use of looping. A canned echo of the more straightforward beginning is flown in at the end, like a dream or a memory.

As a non sequitur of a finale, “Forinfas” is a brief blip of a ’20s-esque number, reminding us that these musicians are disinclined to head down the middle for too long-although, thankfully, they have nothing against an attractive melody.

Originally Published