Trio da Paz Honors Getz and Gilberto
Trio da Paz has more than enough firepower to command any stage in jazz all by itself. The Brazilian expatriate supergroup of guitarist Romero Lubambo, bassist/composer Nilson Matta and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca has been moving Brazilian jazz forward for two decades. But Trio da Paz plus vibraphonist Joe Locke, tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and vocalist Maúcha Adnet constitutes an embarrassment of riches.
Their annual two-week residency at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center has become a popular end-of-summer tradition for New Yorkers seeking cool tropical melodies as a respite from the city’s August heat.
The theme of this year’s edition, seen Aug. 24, was the transcultural collaboration of Stan Getz and João Gilberto—who, together with Antônio Carlos Jobim, turned the quiet revolution of Brazilian bossa nova into a worldwide phenomenon in the early 1960s. But the Getz/Gilberto tribute was really just a starting point for the trio’s excursion into samba jazz and beyond, a bridging of North and South American jazz styles that allowed for soaring improvisation.
Bossa nova and samba jazz were created in the late 1950s by Brazilian musicians who were listening to Stateside artists exploring “cool jazz,” such as Elvin Jones, Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Bossa nova is song-based; it is, as Jobim alumnus Adnet explained, “a little guitar … love and music, quiet and sensual and cool.” Samba jazz, by contrast, is a blend of Brazilian rhythm with jazz improvisation that is more instrumental and open to extended blowing.
The trio’s first song on that Thursday night, Jobim’s “Corcovado,” provided a template for how these players would lift even familiar material into another realm. Allen, with his neo-traditionalist bent and technical mastery, may be the perfect tenorist for the job of Getz surrogate. A sensational swing tenor player in the tradition of Getz, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Allen is a fountain of melody who is also comfortable with post-bop idioms. Without repeating Getz’s now-familiar riffs on “Corcovado,” he captured the gentle spirit of Getz’s gently undulating lines as well as his range of tonal expression, from breathy whispers to flat-out wails.
Locke raced out of the starting gate with a surprising torrent of grace-noted 16ths, as if the time for meditation was over. Following Locke requires listening as fast as Locke thinks and plays. Were those quintuplets he added to that rushing stream? (They were.) His fluid, imaginative, often bluesy ideas remind the listener of the players he cites as his biggest influences, Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson.
Lubambo had the last, deepest word here, as he did throughout the evening. Playing nylon-stringed acoustic with a pickup, his explosive solo displayed his penchant for creative re-harmonization and rhythmic interpolation, all without sacrificing the song’s essential Brazilian sway. Throughout the evening he displayed astounding finger-picking technique on both acoustic and electric: His right hand is capable of mowing down chords like a combine. Later on he used it to execute, with perfect precision, some rapid-fire, MJQ-like baroque passages on “Baden,” Matta’s tribute to guitarist Baden Powell.
Such stellar solos might distract from the brilliant contributions of the trio’s rhythm section. Matta, who has played with everyone from Gilberto to Yo-Yo Ma, was a quiet powerhouse, an inventive melodist with a gorgeous tone. Da Fonseca played high-intensity grooves with daring snare and cymbal accents and superb time.
Adnet, who sang with Jobim’s Banda Nova for a decade, knows better than to mess with the great bossa nova and samba melodies. Instead, she used her charming stage presence and her husky contralto, reminiscent of the great Brazilian jazz singer Leny Andrade, to create clever rhythmic variations and sensuous interpretations of songs like Jobim’s “So Danco Samba” and de Almeida’s “Eu Sambo Mesmo.”
Trio da Paz closed with “The Girl From Ipanema.” Next year will be the 50th anniversary of that landmark Getz/Gilberto recording, sung by the ultra-cool Astrud Gilberto. With Adnet providing an earthier, more emotional rendering, and Allen supplying creative tenor lines, even that overplayed standard sounded fresh.
Then again, this music never sounds dated. As Jobim once said, “I’d rather be eternal than modern.” And so he is.