Artisty in Rhythm


Ever since Laurindo Almeida left his native Brazil to join the Stan Kenton Orchestra in 1947, he steadily firmed up his reputation as one of the most versatile guitarists in contemporary music.  Combining flawless classical technique with lyric sensitivity and consummate taste.  Almeida was equally at home with Bach and bebop, Ravel and Django Reinhardt. Villa Lobos and bossa nove - that happy "fusion" of Brazilian folk and classical music, samba rhythm and modern jazz, of which there's a generous dollop on this delectable CD. 

It seems largely forgotten that Almeida introduced bossa nova to North America in 1953, long before the music got its name and was popularized by Dizzy Gillespie and his then-pianist Lalo Shifrin, and later by Stan Getz.  The occasion was a series of exalted recordings for World-Pacific with Almeida teamed in a felicitous blend with the alto sax of Bud Shank.  Three decades later, they continued their association as one-half of the L.A. Four, a permanent fixture on both Concord Records and the Concord Jazz Festival.

With this CD , Almeida displays his inimitable gift for "table music" in the finest sense.  Like the glorious "Tafelmusik" of Telemann in the Eighteenth Century, this CD works on at least two levels; first, as serious listening, and second as an adjunct to civilized table talk and a digestive aid to convivial dining.  Not much music fills that double bill.  The string quartets of Haydn and Mozart do, but Tristan und Isolde - or nearly any vocal music for that matter - does not.  Punk Rock and Disco certainly do not!  This CD provides a perfect backdrop for dining, while lovers of jazz, classical, folk and the more listenable varieties of soft-rock will find themselves playing it repeatedly.  And it goes without saying that guitarists will discover and endless source of study, wonder - and not a little envy.

Laurindo is blessed here with two matchless cohorts who show a special affinity for this subtle Brazilian hot sauce: bassist Bob Magnusson, veteran of such diverse experiences as Sarah Vaughan, the Buddy Rich Big Band and the San Diego Symphony, plays as Almeida might were his guitar equipped with an extra set of bass strings.  This delightful blend of guitar-and-base is apparent on Chariots of Fire following the "running" theme that opens the piece.  In Milton Holland, Almeida has a tasteful, listening percussionist who has taken to heart Jo Jones famous dictum that "drums should be felt, and not heard".  Holland's work on Astronauta evokes the sound of a flamenco guitarist rhythmically tapping the wood.

The bossa nova feeling predominates in Astronauta.  Torroba's Andante from Sonatina, Luiz Eca's Almost a Farewell, and Almeida's own captivating composition, Te Amo.  His pensive, leisurely introduction to George Gershwin's Liza unearths a heretofore hidden loveliness in this usually up-tempo flagwaver.  The flowing treatment of the plaintive love-song from Slaughter on Tenth Avenue belies the violent title of Richard Rodgers' classic ballet music from On Your Toes.  The tour de force of the package is Laurindo's concert version of Artistry in Rhythm, the long-familiar theme of his one-time boss, Stan Kenton.

Once again, Laurindo Almeida proves himself a master of sounds to becalm the troubled spirit.  It's the best "there, there" music there is.