Ludere ‘Retratos’ (Blaxtream) 5/5

Ludere are Brazilian quartet that have been active over the last few years with ‘Retratos’ being their latest release as a foursome. But this is contemporary Jazz from Brazil rather than being Brazilian Jazz music, and thus, Ludere are more in tune with what is happening in the US and Europe, but that’s not to say that their own South American roots are not important or present, but this is not a bossa nova or samba record. Lead by pianist Philippe Baden Powell, (son of legendary Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell de Aquino), who is joined by Rubinho Antunes on trumpet, Daniel de Paula on drums and Bruno Barbosa on bass, with guitarist Vinicius Gomes featured on two of the eight tracks.

The set begins with ‘Magma’, which additionally utilises string arrangements (via Miltinho Bergo, Hugo Novaes, Daniel Fernandes and Ladson Mendes) and some fluid drumming with a slight drum & bass feel together with edgy bass playing and complementary piano elements to create the most dramatic and textured piece of the album. This is then followed by ‘Reconciliacao’, with Vinicius Gomes’ guitar parts adding a nice balance to this almost funky workout for the band. ‘Morro’, which again features Vinicius Gomes, is more of a head nod affair with its downbeat BPM and loose but sparse rhythm allowing both pianist Philippe Baden Powell and trumpeter Rubinho Antunes space to navigate through, which then builds to a more frantic tempo and denser arrangement for the final minute or so.

‘Origami’ possesses more of a ballad quality, incorporating again some gorgeous strings which compliments the other elements, but the piano and trumpet interplay is very effective, although, the bass solo is probably too short and could have been extended, but this was maybe due to its four and a half minute song length. And as the name suggests, ‘Afro Tamba’ is more Afrocentric within its approach and could be described as a jazz dancer with its uptempo rhythm track, which contains both melodic and more staccato trumpet playing from Rubinho Antunes, combined with Philippe’s complementary piano movements. ‘Espaco-Tempo’ possesses a hypnotic piano groove before Rubinho’s brass contribution provides a layer of fluid trumpet improvisational work alongside a pulsating bass and drum backbone. And both the final two tracks, ‘Retratos’ and ‘Indica’, continue with a similar temperament but with slightly more attitude.

Quartets can he loaded to emphasise one particular player over others but ‘Retratos’ is perfectly balanced to allow equal contributions from all members, so it’s definitely a team effort. The writing, arrangements and structures are excellent, as is the musicianship – but this is a very modern record. Time signatures are rarely in 4/4 common time and many of the solos are not in obvious structural positions, plus, it’s obviously apparent and welcomed that improvisation is key to the album. The additional string sections and the extra guitarist work by Vinicius Gomes broadens the depth of the compositions, and it should also be noted that the second half of the set is ‘heavier’ than the first half. But this is definitely an album worth seeking out. Information is light or in Portuguese but there is nothing to dislike here. A few tour dates in the UK or Europe would be welcomed and further support their fan base outside of Brazil.

Damian Wilkes