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Reviewed here are fresh, new interpretations of Brazilian and Cuban jazz.

Music Reviews: Brazilian and Cuban Jazz from Minas, Antonio Adolfo, and Nils Fischer

Polished is the word to describe Symphony in Bossa, the April release from the husband and wife duo known as Minas. Orlando Haddad plays guitar and Patricia King performs on the piano. Both handle vocals and collaborate with The Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia under the direction of Terell Stafford and are supplemented by an ensemble of strings conducted by Anthony Pirollo. The lush melodies and dynamic rhythms of Brazil’s signature genre are as hospitable to the large orchestra as they are to the small ensemble. And the fact that they have chosen many of the best-known pieces from the repertoire guarantees listeners are bound to find a favorite number.MInas-on-piano

The idea for the album goes back to 2004 when arranger Bill Zaccagni and Minas got together to create a large-scale work combining some original pieces with the traditional Brazilian repertoire for the larger orchestral ensemble. Though Zaccagni passed away in 2007, leaving the project still a dream, the current album is the product of that dream and honors his memory.

The bulk of the album relies on fresh energetic readings of the familiar Brazilian favorites, “The Girl from Ipanema,” “Aguas de Marco,” “Triste,” “Quiet Nights,” “Desafinado,” and “Samba de Orfeu,” to name a few. There are two Haddad compositions, “Sinai Verde,” which opens the album and “Amazonia,” and one from King, “Only the Moon and the Stars.”

Composer/pianist Antonio Adolfo takes a somewhat more personal and almost laid-back approach to the Brazilian tradition in his June release, Tema, given the energy inherent to the music. Uninterested in refurbishing the classic material this time out, his set of original pieces is a more subjective reflection on the music as it has impacted him over the course of his career. “These,” he says, “are temas (themes) from different moments of my life.” With the benefit of experience, he takes a mature look back on earlier work and sees where he can take it.

Antonio Adolfo - TemaEach of the album’s tracks offer a unique musical vision. “Phrygia Brasileira” is structured on the Phrygian mode, reflecting the Moorish influence on Brazil by way of the Portuguese colonists. “Alem Mares” (Beyond Seas), originally written to celebrate the success of space exploration, now channels an oceanic vibe. Again, while most of the album is calm and reflective, there is still the energetic “Sambo Jazz,” a collaboration with guitarist Claudio Spiewak, to get the juices flowing.

Tema is the veteran Adolfo at the height of his powers.

Probably the best way to describe the spirited new album from percussionist Nils Fischer and Timbazo, Rumberos A Monton, is high energy. Released this month, the music ranges from the buoyant to the exuberant; laid-back is not a part of its Cubano-centric vocabulary. This is the kind of music that has audiences up on their feet with the opening notes and keeps them there.

Nils-Fischer-TimbazoWith a gaggle of special guest artists, Timbazo rampages through an 11-song set, supplemented by a bonus track and three radio edits. The bonus track is the English version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” featuring Shirma Rouse. A more exciting Spanish version of the pop hit is included in the set. Highlights include “Flores Para Tu Altar” with a lovely vocal from Lucrecia, a jazzy take on the traditional “Embola,” the lively title song which opens the set, and “Palo Pa’ Changuito,” a Fischer original featuring another side of Lucrecia after some introductory percussion work.

Song after song, this is music steeped in the kind of high energy that characterizes Fischer and Timbazo.

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