This new project is a summation of DJ Gilles Peterson’s devotion to and affection for Brazilian music and covers a whole gamut of musical styles from heavy percussive workouts to jazzy-tinged numbers and north-eastern Brazil roots flavours. Some top name musicians have been enlisted for the musical journey and they include percussionists Nana Vasconcelos, Armando Marçal (an integral member of Pat Metheny’s mid-late 1980s recordings that regularly featured Brazilian and, more generally, Latin American folk influences), Wilson das Neves with a bevvy of vocalists of the calibre of Seu Jorge, Elza Soares (a legendary samba singer who also just happened to be the wife of footballing great, Garrincha) and Marcos Valle among others, and the excellent Kassin (musical collaborator with Moreno Veloso, son of Caetano) taking care of keyboard duties.
Some old chestnuts of Gilles Peterson’s personal Brazilian vinyl collection are revisited with the much loved Moacir Santos tune ‘Nanã’ receiving an Afro-Brazilian treatment with trombone and percussion to the fore and sounding as though it has been recorded in an echoey-sounding cave in the 1950s which adds a welcome touch of old-school atmosphere to proceedings. A typically light and delicate samba-funk piece from Marcos Valle and company on ‘Americas Latina’ is a stand out with its pan-Latino sentiment and another contribution from Valle ‘Estrelar’ conjurs up 1970s keyboards and a decidedly eery vocal sound. For an interesting left-field excursion, a radical reworking of the UK jazz-funk classic ‘Southern Freeez’ is slowed down somewhat from the original and transformed into a mid-tempo bossa breeze of a track with joint vocals courtesy of Valerie Etienne and Emanuelle Araújo. Another welcome surprise awaiting the listener is a reworking of a Francy Boland composition, ‘The Mystery of Man’, which here features some terrific string work interwoven into the whole.
More traditional samba hues are showcased on both ‘Un Toque’ with lovely cavaquinho accompaniment and the rootsy ‘Brasil Pandeiro’, the pandeiro being the Brazilian equivalent of a tambourine and used as just one part of the instrumentation for a full-on escola de samba, or samba school. Here the accordion of the forró musical tradition has the samba percussion superimposed with female vocals. Garnering much airplay is the uptempo title track which is an intoxicating journey into samba territory that builds up a head of steam with repeated vamps. Only the re-interpretation of Airto Moreira’s classic ‘Xibaba’ is a tad tame in comparison to the manic original with its lengthy introduction and the omission of any number in tribute to George Duke’s ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ is a little surprising given Gilles P’s love of that recording. Otherwise, a fine effort to highlight the myriad genres that encompass música brasileira and there is even a subtle attempt at the unofficial Brazilian national anthem on ‘Aquarela do Brasil’ with vocals from Elza Soares.