Cornelia Street Café

7 April 2004

NY Jazz Report's Thad Kawecki and Will Wolf stopped by the Cornelia Street Café on Sunday 21.March to catch the first set of saxophonist Dave Pietro's Banda Brazil. It was a release party for his new CD on A-Records: "EMBRACE-Impressions of Brazil."

Dave Pietro   Saxophones
Pete McCann   Guitar
David Berkman   Piano
Leonardo Cioglia   Bass
Adriano Santos   Drums
Valtinho Anastacio   Percussion, Vocals, Berimbau


The Scene Between Two Unseens
Canto Triste

Brazilian music was a fascination for some jazz musicians---even before the days of Stan Getz in the early sixties when he helped to blend the "bossa nova," specifically, into the jazz vocabulary---with its beautiful melodies, sensual rhythms, sophisticated harmonies, and strong percussive elements. Today, some portion of the Brazilian experience is part of most jazz players and/or their repertoire. And for some, it has become an even greater passion. Over the years, while playing in the big bands of both Maria Schneider and Toshiko Akiyoshi, Dave Pietro made several trips to Brazil. He was so intrigued by what he heard that he returned on his own, and his experiences there had enough of a musical impact that he was inspired to put together both a CD and a band.

The CD, " Embrace-Impressions of Brazil," includes mostly Pietro originals, but also two beautiful tunes by the Brazilian composer, Edu Lobo: "CANTO TRISTE" and "CHORO BANDIDO." Both are pearls. The former, as performed on the album with Pietro playing the C Melody sax (maybe, his best instrument), is a lovely, unvarnished arrangement of this soothing poem, and includes a handsome accompaniment by guitarist Pete McCann. Unfortunately, on this night at the Cornelia Street Café, good karma eluded the musicians; most of the performance was impaired by a poor audio mix. Specifically, David Berkman, the pianist was over-miked, and too prominent with his aggressive attack. This unfavorable situation was, at least, partially responsible for "CANTO TRISTE'S" transformation from a fine gem into a jagged stone.

Agreed. "CANTO TRISTE," which loosely translates to "sad song" is all smoke and warmth on the CD, an updated channeling of the Getz/Byrd sound. And while an exact cover would have been contrary to the jazz spirit, the live version was too high in energy and lost much of the tune's beauty. It was a shame to see an otherwise solid set marred by an insufficient sound check. That being said, Pietro and Banda Brazil have a lot going for them.

The opening piece and CD title track, "EMBRACE," is one of those things. Pietro, this time on soprano, worked well with Anastacio's vocal in weaving together an enticing melody in this vibrant medium-tempo number. Both Pietro and McCann added engaging solos. And, the CD version benefits from the addition of trumpet, trombone, and alto flute, all nicely arranged.

The voice/sax combination is used to good effect on several of Pietro's well-crafted melodies, where Anastacio's timbre adds its Brazilian hue. He also contributed on percussion (congas, tambourine, shakers), samba whistle and birembau. As mentioned, Banda's repertoire is skillfully arranged. It is also strong on rhythmic invention, and provides plenty of interesting twists and turns. Good examples from contrasting ends of the pallette are "CURURU," a slippery, energetic samba, and "EQUANIMITY," with its quirky flavor.

Yes, quirky, and with its mixed meters, lively spirit, and real gusto, one of Pietro's best pieces. This evening it was also a good vehicle for an extended solo by Berkman, a potent pianist with high intensity and a tenacious percussive approach.

Guitarist Pete McCann also deserves a nod for his probing solos, and solid ensemble playing that utilized a variety of electronic effects.

And, the rhythm section's Cioglia and Santos provided strong, unassuming support.

All in all, a good performance.

And a fine CD.


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