Formed a decade ago as a Sérgio Mendes tribute band by percussionist Ricardo Bozas and singer Rosana Eckert, Brasuka is a Dallas-based sextet offering “Brazilian music with spices of reggae, classical, jazz improvisation, folk-styled melodies, Uruguayan candombe and splashes of pop”.
The description doesn’t lie, as their debut album (the title translates as A Life With Passion) comprises 10 dynamic tracks (nine original) delivered by six musicians and three guest players, representing five cultures and sung in Portuguese, Spanish and English.
The Mendes comparison is apt, as the opening Samba Jiji starts on a dramatic drum-and-percussion passage before easing into a shuffling rhythm overlaid by laidback vocals from Eckert, steady piano from Robinson and lively saxophone from visitor Jeff Robbins. The title track sees Boaz taking over on voice for a feisty reggae workout, the catchy rhythm and driving bass underpinning a repeating chorus, and featuring a funky wah-wah guitar solo from Tom Burchill.
Road To Hermeto, a tribute to Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal, opens on bright, punchy piano paired with guest Drew Zaremba’s flute, leading into some cool guitar-and-flute interaction and smooth vocals. The following Marakandombe combines the Brazilian maracatu and Uruguayan candomblé to great effect, once more featuring Eckert’s gentle scat vocals and more great sax and guitar work from Zaremba, while Deusa Do Meu Carnaval finds guest player Daniel Pardo on great form on flute and melodica.
In contrast, the lovely, fragile Reina’s Song spotlights Burchill’s classical guitar skills and Eckert’s delightful English-language vocal, but allows space for Robinson’s ethereal piano runs and some nice underlying bass work from Brian Warthen. Accelerating to a restless acoustic guitar rhythm and sung alternately in Portuguese and English by Boaz and Eckert, Praia Felix recalls the former’s visit to the Felix Beach in Ubatuba in Brazil’s state of São Paulo.
The closing, hard-rockin’ workout on the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band finds the entire combo firing on all cylinders, judiciously keeping the running time short and avoiding over-the-top solos or improvisation. However, the frantic rhythm seems a little too much for the original composition, whose collectively sung lyrics get lost in the rush.
Overall this is a great set, a fabulous Brazilian jazz fusion extravaganza which gives mellow nods to Mendes and other Latin artists while offering exciting, new, jazz-flavoured originals, exquisitely played and sung, which draw on a wide range of upbeat, esoteric influences. Outstanding.
Samba Jiji; A Vida Com Paixão; Road To Hermeto; Marakandombe; Deusa Do Meu Carnaval; Reina’s Song; Praia Felix; La Higuera; Confundido; Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (46.44)
Rosana Eckert (v, kyb, 4); Ricardo Bozas (pc, v); Denny Robinson (p, kyb, v); Tom Burchill (elg, acg, v); Brian Warthen (b, pc, 2, 9); Jose Aponte (d, pc, 4); Daniel Pardo (f, 5, 8, 10; af, 9; mel, 5, 7); Drew Zaremba (f, 3; ts, 4, 9); Jeff Robbins (ts, 1). Dallas, Texas, 2021.
Outside in Arts OiA 2132