Ludere ‘Ludere’ (Private Press/Tratore) 4/5

philippe-baden-powell“Ludere” is a Brazilian release, performed with a fresh, lyrical and melodic vitality. Led by pianist Philippe Baden Powell, son of Brazil’s legendary guitarist Baden Powell, he is joined by Rubinho Antunes on trumpet and flugelhorn, Daniel de Paula on drums, and Bruno Barbosa on double bass. The idea for this project was born out of the friendship and musical partnership shared by Philippe Baden Powell and Rubinho Antunes. Having initially met in Paris in 2011, it was four years later when meeting for a series of concerts to be held in Brazil that they decided to focus their energies on the quartet and take it from the stage and into the studio. Ludere is the Latin word for verbs play, play, express and also touching. A fitting title to the album then, given that the music the four musicians perform is wonderfully expressive and playful in its nature. Rubinho Antunes comments on the recording; “The disc is clearly a contemporary jazz work, which makes the listener travel through different musical universes, with Brazilian music as a backdrop.” And I have to say I couldn’t agree more. There is an obvious, unsurprising Brazilian feel to the album, yet stylistically it sounds more Pan European. Clearly the quartet have taken on board various global musical influences, successfully fusing styles with their own musical personas to create a very warm, joyful and highly enjoyable contemporary jazz album.

I love the honesty and spirit with which this music is made. It’s at once joyous and uplifting, yet there’s also many depths to it that make repeated listening even more enjoyable. Brilliantly written tunes, expertly played with verve, passion and elegance. There’s a catchiness to many of the tunes that not only comes from a warm, light touch from the composer’s manuscript, but also from a freedom of expression with which the music is performed. The obvious enjoyment radiating from the musicians themselves making the music is mirrored in the recording itself, making the listener’s experience all the more rewarding. None more so in my opinion, than on two stand-out tracks that really do hit all the right buttons for me. “Garfield” captures the essence of what this band are all about. The catchy, tuneful melody, the subtle lyricism, the free-spirited energy and the replayability of the track all combine to create a humdinger of a jazz tune. If jazz can be stylishly sexy in a cool, uncomplicated way, this is it. The quartet of musicians shine as they let the gift of their roots combine gleefully with the world that surrounds them. Awesome music making. “Elegy For Brad” is the nearest this foursome come on this recording to a ballad. As soon as the muted trumpet drew its first few breaths on this tune I was completely hooked. It pulls you in, gently holds you, and caresses your soul with its intimacy and quiet beauty. A stunning piece of music. Seven tunes in total make up “Ludere” and there are plenty more highlights to be heard in addition to the ones I have just mentioned. This is one of those albums that is deceptively simple and uncomplicated. With every listen I discover something new. And once familiarity kicked in after repeated listening, I found myself waiting impatiently for some of the magical moments I had previously discovered, only to be pleasantly surprised with something incredible I hadn’t noticed before. Excellent music making from a wonderful quartet.

Mike Gates