Chico Pinheiro ‘City of Dreams’ (Self-released) 4/5

Let’s face it, anything that makes you happy in these testing times has to be a good thing. This album brings a smile to my face. It warms the heart and reminds me of the good things in life. Over the last decade or so, guitarist Chico Pinheiro has become one of the leading lights in Brazilian music. Not only is he an exceptional instrumentalist, with a wonderful sound an effortlessly fluid playing style, but he is also a unique composer, as can be heard across many of his recordings. His CV looks equally as impressive, having worked alongside some iconic artists including Placido Domingo, Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves, Brad Mehldau, Esperanza Spalding, Mark Turner and Eddie Gomez, to name but a few. Pinheiro now enjoys a revered presence inside and outside of Brazil, and this album will surely serve to enhance his growing reputation worldwide.

“City of Dreams” features Pinheiro on guitars and vocals, with Chris Potter on sax, Tiago Costa on piano and keys, Bruno Migotto on electric and acoustic bass, and Edu Ribeiro on drums. It’s a sparkling line-up, and together they make some wonderful music across the eleven tracks performed on this release. As a newcomer to Pinheiro’s music, on the basis of listening to this album in isolation, I would say it comes over as a very fine contemporary jazz album with clearly evident Brazilian heritage, rather than having an out and out Brazilian sound and feel to it. Either way, what it does have is some masterful musicianship paired with a lovely warm, feel-good sound.

The title track kicks off proceedings and it’s certainly one of the strongest tunes on the album. Pinheiro’s personality shines through in his music, and on this fabulous opener, the whole band shine brightly as they weave their way through some tremendous melodies, truly capturing the spirit of the guitarist’s exciting composition. Chris Potter supplies the fireworks on “Long Story”, a compelling piece that wouldn’t be out of place on any of Michael Brecker’s classic albums. One of my favourite tracks is undoubtedly the Latin-infused “Estrada Real”. Pinheiro’s acoustic guitar is beautifully rhythmic, and his vocals are sumptuously eloquent as his roots come to the fore on this spellbinding piece of music. There’s such an understated eloquence to Pinheiro’s playing, and on tunes such as “Gesture” and “Theme”, the guitarist teams up really well with pianist Costa, creating subtleties and nuances that are somewhat reminiscent of Metheny/Mays at their reflective best. Catchy hooks are at the forefront of the tunes “Invisible Lights” and “Up in the Air”, making them easily accessible whilst still being compelling and rewarding.

“City of Dreams” is one of those albums that brings out the metaphorical sunshine… whatever the weather. Strong performances from all of the musicians involved, along with some creative writing and production, make it an uplifting experience and an album that can’t fail to make you want to pour yourself a cool drink and put your feet up for a short while.

Mike Gates