Claudio Roditi – Bons Amigos – Resonance Records HCD-2010, 63:44 [9/13/11] ****:
(Claudio Roditi – trumpet, Flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet, vocals (track 6); Romero Lubambo – electric and acoustic guitar (tracks 1-2, 5, 8-9); Donald Vega – piano; Marco Panascia – bass; Mauricio Zottarelli – drums; Tamir Hendelman – arranger (tracks 1-2, 5, 8-9))
Trumpeter/Flugelhornist Claudio Roditi’s latest Resonance release is well titled. The hour-long collection includes new friends, old associates and affable material with a strong Latin/Brazilian correlation.
Roditi has been part of the American jazz scene since he started gigging in the Southeast U.S. in the 1970s and has become proficient in both the Afro-Cuban as well as the straight-ahead bop arenas, although he has not attained the name recognition his talents deserve. With Bons Amigos Roditi certainly will not lose any fans and hopefully will make some new ones.
Roditi, with the capable assistance of long-standing comrade and Resonance Records’ chief George Klabin, put together an excellent roster to bring out the best in the music. Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo has a long-time connection with Roditi. Drummer/percussionist Mauricio Zottarelli has done numerous gigs with Roditi but this project marks the first time they have done studio time together. Roditi’s latest colleagues are Nicaraguan-born pianist Donald Vega, Italian bassist Marco Panascia and arranger Tamir Hendelman (whose stylish support and contributions enhance five tunes). Roditi, of course, is at the forefront with his vibrant technique on the rotary valve horns he prefers, his faultless taste in the music he and Klabin chose, and Roditi’s liberal soloing. He remarks, “I felt like playing a few more notes on this album. I played double-time more often than I normally do and there are some solos where I’m taking some liberties that I usually don’t.” Roditi’s broader outlook is the listener’s windfall.
The ten tracks are split between three Roditi originals and seven by both recent and more erstwhile masters of Brazilian music, featuring material by Toninho Horta, Eliane Elias, Johnny Alf and others, some of whom are meaningful influences on Roditi’s development and musical heritage. The dynamic opener, “O Sonho (The Dream”) by the great composer Egberto Gismonti has special significance, since Roditi played uncredited on the original when it was recorded in Brazil in the 1960s. Both Roditi and Lubambo push and propel the piece into a sharp-spirited dash, highlighted by Lubambo’s fleet-fingered acoustic guitar solo and Roditi’s outstanding horn. Roditi says Alf and Antonio Carlos Jobim have also been central inspirations. Alf is not well known but is considered by some to be as important in terms of Brazilian music as, say, Billy Strayhorn: abundantly melodic, ahead of his time and full of ideas. Here, Roditi turns up the tempo on Alf’s “Ceu e Mar (Sea and Sky)” with mellifluous trumpet work while Panascia and Zottarelli keep the rhythm boiling and bubbling at a heated temperature. The ensemble slows things down on Jobim’s pleasing “Ligia,” where Roditi utilizes his warm-toned voice on the only vocal cut. Vega delivers understated piano accompaniment which suits the languid arrangement and Panascia slips in a graceful bass solo.
Roditi’s compositions flow well with those by others. “Levitation” is the disc’s most straightforward jazz piece and has a relaxed tonality which ebbs and flows and thus provides space for another of Panascia’s striking bass solos but also yields room for Roditi to stretch out. Roditi widens his instrumental and compositional approach even further on his enthusiastic “Piccolo Samba,” where Roditi gets to demonstrate one of his latest acquisitions, a piccolo trumpet (with, of course, piston valves). At the conclusion, Roditi uses his new trumpet to overdub five separate parts to create a high-timbered horn chorale which forms a stirring finale. Roditi’s “Bossa de Mank” exhibits a bossa nova mannerism but is multicolored and applies melodic variations which furnish the number an enjoyable and imaginative characteristic.
There is a richness and sociable complexity throughout Bons Amigos. Roditi and his fellow musicians are graciously affectionate to their traditional sources but also suggestive and open-minded to explore and adapt the material to their own applications. Thus, Bons Amigos offers something for everyone: convention and innovation.
1. O Sonho
2. Para Nada
3. Bossa de Mank
4. Ceu e Mar
5. Bons Amigos
10. Piccolo Samba
– Doug Simpson
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