Duduka Da Fonseca Trio – Plays Toninho Horta – Zoho ZM 201115, 47:29 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
(Duduka Da Fonseca – drums; Guto Wirtti – acoustic bass; David Feldman – piano
Those who know their Latin jazz already know the name of drummer Duduka Da Fonseca. He started performing in his teens in his native Brazil and his credits after he arrived in New York City in the mid-1970s reads like a who’s who of jazz: Lee Konitz, Kenny Barron, Eddie Gomez, Joe Lovano and literally dozens and dozens more. One highlight among many is his work with fellow Brazilian Antonio Carlos Jobim. Although Da Fonseca has appeared as a sideman on over 200 albums his own discography is quite smaller, which may explain why he is not as well-known as he should be.
Da Fonseca’s latest release (recorded in 2009), Plays Toninho Horta, concentrates on a Brazilian composer whom Da Fonseca is very familiar with, the influential singer/guitarist Toninho Horta, who has collaborated with Pat Metheny, Eliane Elias, Wayne Shorter and others. Da Fonseca met Horta more than four decades ago and the two became close friends. This project’s origin probably gestated over many years but in his liner notes Da Fonseca mentions things came together during the last decade. He and pianist David Feldman met in 2000 and the two played together in each other’s groups. Another piece of the puzzle formed when bassist Guto Wirtti worked with Da Fonseca and Feldman on a recording for saxophonist Paulo Levi. In the album notes, Da Fonseca says his reaction was immediate, “Wow!! This rhythm session sounds so right!!!” Da Fonseca knew he wanted Feldman and Wirtti for a new trio format and their first venture should focus on Horta’s compositions.
The result is a 47-minute, nine-track outing which showcases Horta’s harmonic and melodic material, from up-tempo swingers to bubbling ballads and ascertains that the new Duduka Da Fonseca Trio is a worthy addition to the jazz community. The three artists transform Horta’s often pop-oriented songs (many done as vocal renditions) into instrumentals which emphasize invention and communication. On the opener “Aqui, Oh!,” the threesome soften Horta’s danceable tempo and convert the tune into an creative conduit which features Feldman’s intricate soloing as well as Da Fonseca’s rolling rhythms. “Bicycle Ride” is altered from a peppy samba-slanted pop piece into an emotive vehicle for Feldman’s assured keyboard and Wirtti’s lithe bass groove, beautifully executed during a short solo. Wirtti is heard to great effect on the lamenting “Moonstone,” where the trio utilizes subtle colorations to help shape the ballad’s refined manner. Wirtti commences with a finely honed arco and then enhances the moody calm with perfectly poised plucking: his notes resonate with a polished purity.
Other notable tracks include those regarding the perceived pursuit of possible partnerships. “Francisca” is a mid-tempo number with a playful swing. Listening to Feldman, Wirtti and Da Fonseca perform as a unified entity is a delight: their joie de vivre is nearly exhilarating. The late night excursion, “Waiting for Angela,” has a gracious quality accented by Da Fonseca’s delicate brushwork and Feldman’s understated single note piano reverie. The sedately swinging “Louisa” has a laid-back but certainly not lazy design which gives room for the three musicians to demonstrate their perceptive way with unassuming soloing. There are no flashy or blatant moments thrown up here.
It may seem odd to some, but for a record led by a drummer there are few instances when Da Fonseca takes the center spot. Mostly he remains an integral but unassertive component in the overall sound. The exception is the up-tempo “Retrato Do Gato” (which translates as “Portrait of the Cat”), a suitably lively album-closer, where Da Fonseca erupts across his drum kit and offers ample reason why he has been and continues to be on the first-call drummer’s list. Plays Toninho Horta will hopefully do double duty and generate more interest in both Da Fonseca and Toninho Horta, two artists who deservedly merit more attention.
TrackList: Aqui, Oh!; Bicycle Ride; Moonstone; Francisca; Aquelas Coisas Todas; De Ton Pra Tom; Waiting for Angela; Luisa; Retrato Do Gato
– Doug Simpson
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