Many classic elements from four decades of music by Baden Powell, one of the greatest Brazilian guitarists, are represented with modern arrangements in AfroSambaJazz: The Music of Baden Powell. The album was spearheaded by pianist Mario Adnet and Baden Powell's son, Philippe Baden Powell. The whole album is an easy listen. The tracks are all smooth and upbeat while adding passion from their arrangements.
There are several songs that showcase strong individual solos, the piano of Philippe being one of the most noteworthy. "Berimabau" is powerful and the piano plays well with the saxophone; he seamlessly goes from solo back into the melody of the song. The energetic "Ritmo Afro" has a beautiful piano section provided by Marcos Nimrichter. It's quick and intricate.
I'm a little disappointed that the guitar aspect of many of the arrangements aren't as strong as the saxophone, piano, and flute, seeing how Baden Powell was so well known for it. If one is looking for strong guitar solos, "Nhem Nhem Nhem" is your best shot. The solo from the seven-string guitar is deceptively simple, yet elegant.
One of the strongest songs on the album is "Caxanga de Oxala." The song is a light upbeat Samba tempo, and different instruments come in and play with the melody without conflicting with each other, leaving layers of beautiful harmonies. The song magically slows down in sections and snaps right back to the original tempo with creative use of different instrument solos as the transitions back. By the end of the song there are so many elements that built up the simplistic melody that it becomes a masterpiece.
Also notable are two lament songs. "Lamento de Exu" brings images of a film noir: smokey, dimly lit streets of a big city and then walking into a jazz club. It has a catchy Afro-samba style to it. On the other hand, "Lamento de Preto Velho" is smoother and the flute solos are superb.
Although there aren't many vocally led songs, I appreciate how the singers that are presented stay true to the genre. As part of the "Yansan Suite," "Canto de Yansan" has vocals from Maucha Adnet that remind me of the airy styles of Astrud Gilberto. In "Canto de Yemanja" I'm reminded of the warm and deep vocals of Yma Sumac.
The tracks are ordered seamlessly, making this album very easy to listen to from beginning to end. The tempos have enough variation that while the songs are all Brazilian Jazz, each have their own unique character. All of the songs are the correct length where one doesn't grow tired and want to skip ahead; the best example comes from the beautiful transitions from "Yansan Suite" to the last track "Domingo de Ramos." The final lyrics seamlessly blend right into the final track. "Yansan Suite," which is more in a vignette style, is short but packed with content. It would have been nice to have "Yansan Suite" as separate tracks; noted as as part of a trilogy for people who would put the music on playlists, for example.
AfroSambaJazz is faithful to the music of Baden Powell. The album is an essential for anyone who appreciates Afro Sambas, Bossa Nova, or Brazilian music. Each track shines from the arrangement to the beautiful instrument playing.