02 April 2008

Afro-Samba Jazz

If you wanted to, you could call Os Ipanemas the Brazilian version of the Buena Vista Social Club. But I don't want to. What I do want is to try to describe their fresh Afro-Brazilian sound. Fresh even though the band began back in 1962.

Led by septuagenarians Wilson Das Neves (percussion, vocals) and Neco (guitar), the band oozes smooth charm without lapsing into cliche. These two endow the group with a wealth of experience, having recorded and toured the likes of Elis Regina, Tom Jobim, Wilson Simonal, Jorge Ben, Chico Buarque and Elza Soares. Wilson also performs with the Rio samba troupe Orquestra Imperial.

At the risk of comparing apples and oranges, I find myself contrasting this album with the music of Eddie Palmieri, whose live show I caught last night. Eddie's band was tight and each member was at the top of his game, pumping out blistering solos on horns and percussion. But I found myself growing a little numb to the music, which seemed to come all at one temperature: hot. They provided too little dynamic variation. After a while, even on the most pleasant tropical afternoon one requires a cool drink.Os Ipanemas - Call of the Gods CD cover

The Ipanemas know cool. In contrast to Palmieri's boil, they simmer through the album's ten tracks. The rhythms are distinctly Latin, becoming distinctly Brazilian only (to my ear) when a bit of samba bubbles up, or when I recognize the soft syllables of Brazilian Portuguese in the vocals.

Their music maintains deep roots in the Candomble spirituality that is Brazil's equivalent of Haiti's vudon or Cuba's santeria. "Those who sing samba," Wilson asserts," sing it in praises of the Orixas. Brazilian music is religion. For our forefathers it comes from religion. So really, samba is a religion in Brazil."

So here's a little taste of cool spirituality from the Ipanemas.

[mp3] The Ipanemas: Chama o Donato (Calling Donato)
from the album Call of the Gods
(official release date April 15)

band site: myspace.com/theipanemas

The Ipanemas tour the UK this month:
16 April London Barbican / La Linea Festival
17 April Liverpool Royal Philharmonic / La Linea Festival
18 April Southampton Turner Sims
20 April Brighton Komedia
22 April Leeds College of Music
23 April Warwick Warwick Arts
24 April Bristol St Georges
25 April Exeter Phoenix
26 April Swansea Taliesin Arts Centre

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