The New Orleans-Rio Connection

I first heard Rick Trolsen in New Orleans (Never The Big Easy, please, unless you want to be considered a tourist cornball unduly infuenced by bad movies; calling it The Crescent City is okay). He was in Al Belletto’s big band. I loved his unreservedly tromboney solos. Trolsen is not a young hot dog trombonist harboring an inner trumpeter yearning to be free, but a mature one who loves the instrument for itself. Since I have long been hooked on Brazilian music, it came as a double surprise and pleasure when Trolsen’s wryly titled Gringo Do Choro showed up one day while I was in the throes of a troublesome part of the Desmond book. I knew that if I put it on, I’d lose the writing battle, so I set it aside. When I finally got around to the CD, it made me even happier than I had anticipated. Trolsen recorded it in 2003 in Rio de Janeiro with eight Brazilian musicians of whom I have never heard, not surprising since it seems that one out of three Brazilians is an accomplished musician. His immersion in New Orleans is plain to hear in his samba improvisations, and he blends the north-south elements with verve, humor, saudade and the feeling of abandon common to both musics.
The repertoire includes pieces by Trolsen, Clare Fischer and assorted Brazilians including Anontio Carlos Jobim and Jacob do Bandolim. Bandolim loved the mandolin so much that he took the Portuguese word for it as his last name. Henry Lentino, who is on the album, kept his own name but plays the Bandolim beautifully. The package has Trolsen’s fine introductory notes, observations on the songs by Marcia M.A. de Brito and a great cover shot of the trombonist playing with Central Rio below and, in the distance, Sugar Loaf swathed in fog. You are unlikely to run across this in your corner one-stop. You can go to Trolsen’s web site to find out where to get it, or call (504) 368-8130. Many albums on artists’ own labels are premature, self-indulgent and boring. This one is generous of spirit and entertaining.
Luscious Lu (Okay, so it’s a corny subhead, but it’s not wrong)
Luciana Souza, a Brazilian turned New Yorker and new U.S. citizen, is one of the best singers in the world. She performs with equal facility and mastery in Brazilian music, American songs and classical music. She has sung Osvaldo Golijov’s “Pasion” with the New York Philharmonic and scatted with cutting-edge young jazz players in Greenwich Village. She wins critics polls (Last week, the Jazz Journalists Association’s Female Jazz Singer of the year award) and Grammy nominations. She is just beginning to reach the general acclaim justified by her talent and charisma. Souza’s musicianship is deep and wide. The half-step modulations she improvises over Romero Lubambo’s guitar in the tag ending of “Amanha” on her Brazilian Duos are astonishing. Her second volume of duets is, if anything, even better than the first. On North And South she stretches the phrasing of “All Of Me” with assurance, subtlety and control of the time so that although her approach is daring, she maintains respect for the song’s integrity. With the Maria Schneider Orchestra in Concert in the Garden her wordless vocalising is an integral element of the ensemble in Schneider’s title composition, the “Choro Dancado” section of “Three Romances” and the masterpiece of the album, “Buleria, Solea y Rumba.” In other words, Schneider uses Souza as an instrument in the orchestra. Souza executes the demanding parts flawlessly and, evidently, without effort.
Schneider Triumphant
With Concert in the Garden, Schneider reaches a plateau in her notable young career. The CD won four Jazz Journalists Association awards last week and a Grammy in the spring. The student of Gil Evans and Bob Brookmeyer is more clearly than ever an original voice in composition and orchestration. Her writing is integrated with the abilities of her musicians in ways that nurture the individualism of soloists like trumpeters Ingrid Jensen and Greg Gisbert, tenor saxophonists Rich Perry and Donny McCaslin and pianist Frank Kimbrough. Schneider is one of a few musicians also breaking ground on the business side of jazz recording. She made the album under the auspices of ArtistShare, formed to give artists control, more of the money they earn and a chance for their audiences to participate in and support the creative process. Guitarist Jim Hall has also joined AristShare and has released his first independent album, the brilliant Magic Meeting. Hall is preparing for ArtistShare a duo album with pianist Geoff Keezer. Bob Brookmeyer has joined ArtistShare, and Ingrid Jensen told me the other day that she is signing up as well. Assuming that it can matintain its integrity, the organization seems a bold step away from the convolutions, exploitation and abuses of the traditional recording industry. Schneider’s album is available only from her at ArtistShare. It is an indication of the way the world is going that the ArtistShare website offers neither a physical address nor a phone number. Sorry about that, troglodytes.

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