The guitar is an instrument that is indelibly linked to the music of Brazil. At once a melodic, harmonic, and percussive instrument, the guitar is the perfect vehicle for a musical culture that has blended the elements of the European and African musical traditions for over five centuries, giving birth to the choro, samba and bossa nova.
The modern Brazilian guitarist is expected to understand and respect the tradition but he is also expected to bring something new in performance. Romero Lubambo provides a perfect example of a musician who has absorbed the legacy of his forebears, and then developed into the standard bearer of Brazilian guitar playing.
Lubambo’s new recording Só – Brazilian Essence is an effervescent musical statement of solo guitar playing, bridging the gap between preserving the tradition of Brazilian song and the evolution of the art.
Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Lubambo moved to the United States in 1985 where he quickly established himself as an important interpreter of jazz and Brazilian music. He became a first call musician for a coterie of the world’s best jazz and Brazilian artists, including Dianne Reeves, Diana Krall, Herbie Mann and Luciana Souza. Along with his solo projects and sideman work, Lubambo has also been a member of the collaborative group Trio Da Paz with bassist Nilson Matta and Duduka da Fonseca since 1990.
Though he has performed in many different musical combinations, the solo guitar concert has been a mainstay of Lubambo’s. On Só, he wanted to recreate the sound and intimacy of a solo guitar performance. Lubambo approached his friend and recording engineer David Darlington and recorded thirteen spontaneous tracks that feature his own original compositions along with a generous helping of compositions by legendary Brazilian composers, including Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes.
The recording begins with an intricate, up-tempo reading of Ary Barroso’s “Aquarela” which leads to a lovingly nuanced rendition of Jobim and de Moraes’s “Brigas Nunca Mais.” Lubambo’s “Paquito In Bremen,” written for the guitarist’s good friend, the legendary Cuban woodwind player Paquito D’Rivera, follows in a ruminative vein while Mario Adnet’s “Pedra Bonita” is shifty, with its harmonic intricacy. Carlos Lyra and de Moraes’s “Você e eu” is at once subtle and spicy, while Lubambo’s “Song for Kaya” is a heart lilting bossa nova. The poignant “Luisa” is a bittersweet tune written for Lubambo’s daughter.
Carlos Lyra and de Moraes’s “Coisa Mais Linda” continues the program in typical Brazilian saudade fashion and even includes a moving vocal from Lubambo. Jobim and de Moraes’s chestnut “Insensatez” is slowed down for a resonant rendering. Cesar Camargo Mariano’s “Samambaia” is a tempered samba with unique call and response pattern. “By the Stream” is a moving ballad by Lubambo and Pamela Driggs, which presages another Jobim and de Moraes classic, “A Felicidade.” The recording concludes with the only non-Brazilian composition, “Laura,” written by David Raksin and Johnny Mercer, performed in a way that complements the Brazilian esthetic perfectly.
Romero Lubambo has proven his expertise in the field of Brazilian music and jazz. His new recording Só – Brazilian Essence is a wonderful reminder of Lubambo’s talent not only as a guitarist but as a valuable interpreter of his native land’s musical output.