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Quickies: Albuquerque/Amorim/Barata, Brian Blade Fellowship, Paolo Nutini

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Here we are nearly a week into June and I’m still stuck on some May releases. Time to clear the docket a little bit so we can push ahead with some newer stuff. Enter the ever-handy vehicle for expressing briefer thoughts, Quickies.

True to the tagline at the end of this article, I also inserted a “new to me” selection; one that’s been out there stateside for almost a year and a half now, but a good friend sent to me just recently. It’s a CD by a young guy from Scotland whose last name I still can’t pronounce, but I’ve had a hard time keeping his music out of my rotation for the last month or so.

So without further delay, let the housecleaning begin…

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Jorge Albuquerque, Marcos Amorim, Rafael Barata Revolving Landscapes
The thing that amazes me when exploring Brazilian music is that while there are usually a lot characteristics you can find in most music out of that country, overall the music is much more diverse than the Brazilians get credit for here in America. That became especially apparent when absorbing the Northeast Brazilian sounds of Jovino Santos Neto’s Alma do Nordeste.

The lesson I’m learning this time is how well the trio format can work in Brazilian jazz. Charlie Byrd popularized this format nearly five decades ago, but acclaimed Brazilian guitarist Marcos Amorim has brought it into the 21st century without compromising any of the original feel.

Accompanied by drummer/percussionist Rafeal Barata and bassist Jorge Albuquerque, Amorim run through a set of ten tunes that are breezy while often sounding very somber. That probably comes from some classical influences making its way into some of the cuts. Most of the songs, composed by either Amorim or Albuquerque, are mellow but memorable. Amorim shows off Metheny-esque chops on songs like “New Landscape,” “Cloudy Day” and the plainly labeled “Salsa.” “Sea Party” sports a pretty melody that Sergio Mendes once dependably produced. “Afternoon In Hanoy” has a wonderfully constructed theme. But even where the compositions are as strong as these, the close communication amongst the three get them through.

This CD was released in the U.S.A. on May 20 by Adventure Music. For superb trio work with authentic Brazilian music that doesn’t need to pound it’s ample technique into your skull, Revolving Landscapes is a good choice.

PhotobucketBrian Blade Fellowship Season Of Changes
This is one I’ve been eagerly anticipating for a while. I’ve even said as much when I reviewed his last album, Perceptual. The wait finally ended on May 8 with the release of Season Of Changes.

In that eight year span, Blade was providing drumming for every big name out there, but still getting his Fellowship Band together for occasional gigs. That’s enabled the group to just pick up where they left off.

As before, Blade strikes a delicate but seamless balance between jazz, folk, and rock. Also as before, he leads the band by nurturing a distinct group sound, not by taking all the best solos (in fact, he doesn’t really solo at all). It’s a spiritual, pastoral kind of music, not such much pushing out the frontiers of jazz as much as gently nudging them so that you are aware that this is something no one else is quite doing, but it doesn’t jolt you out of your comfort zone, either.

The compositions again are all originals, with songwriting chores split between Blad and his keyboardist Jon Cowherd. Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, saxophonists Myron Walden and Melvin Butler and bassist Chris Thomas are also carried over from the prior album.

From the majestically building “Rubylou’s Lullaby” to the Coltranian harmonics of “Omni”, there’s never a time when the level of artistry and collective spirit isn’t at a high level. That’s even present on the semi-curveball of the album, the straight-ahead rocking “Most Precious One (Prodigy).”

As good as this record is, Season of Changes is still a quarter step down from Perceptual. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. Maybe it’s the mere fact that it doesn’t represent a big leap from Perceptual despite there not being a single weak track in the whole set. But the absence of pedal steel guitarist Dave Easley is definitely a factor. He was responsible for adding just a touch of rural flavor to Blade’s idiosyncratic soundscape, and his absence takes away one of the distinguishing aspects from it.

That is to say, Season Of Change isn’t outstanding in the once-ever-ten-years way; it’s merely another solidly excellent effort from Blade and the Fellowship. If you like jazz even a little bit, don’t even think about missing out on this one.

PhotobucketPaolo Nutini These Streets
Nutini, from North Of England Way, got notice from performing his songs in London showcase clubs and ended up signed by Atlantic Records when he was barely 18. Soon afterwards in ’06, he recorded this gem of a debut album.

These Streets doesn’t seek to steal away fans of the Jonas Brothers; despite the young adult love themes in some of the songs, it’s sung and played with a maturity that belies Nutini’s tender age. The blue-eyed soul/folk-rock appeals more to the Jack Johnson and Van Morrison crowds. Calling Nutini’s voice a cross between Dave Matthews and Mick Hucknell (Simply Red) or even Johnson in spots would be a fair characterization.

Every tune in this collection was written by Nutini with help of others, and his trusty acoustic guitar. Amongst indelible but not too sappy ballads like “Last Request” (video below) and “Rewind” are the spot-on pub rocker “Jenny Don’t Me Hasty” and toe-tapping “Alloway Grove.”

After all, there’s a lot of talented new singers out there. Paolo Nutini stands above that crowd with snappy, unpretentious tunes and an organic presentation. If you’re a latecomer to the Nutini scene, well, join the club. Much better late than never.

“Quickies” are mini-record reviews of new or upcoming releases, or “new to me.” Some albums are just that much more fun to listen to than to write about.

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