Liner Notes by Arnaldo DeSouteiro
Milestone CD MCD 9175-2, LP 9175-1, Cassette Tape M5-9175
Texto de Arnaldo DeSouteiro para o livreto do CD (e contracapa do LP) "Slow Fire", de Claudio Roditi, editado em 1989 pela Milestone Records
In the music world, some artists, in order to achieve quick public recognition, seem to sacrifice their personal convictions by adopting tried and tested formulas. There are others who refuse to renounce their own aesthetic concepts and among these, Claudio Roditi stands out. He is a musician gifted with another quality, being able to reflect, when recording an album, the artistic moment he is living in. In so doing, Roditi has made of his discography a perfect document of his aesthetic evolution.
Red on Red, the album that, in 1984, inaugurated Claudio Roditi’s career as a recording artist on Creed Taylor’s Greene Street label, found him exercising his ability into the fusion of jazz and Brazilian music. Its successor, Claudio!, released by Uptown Records in 1986, showed an attempt to establish himself on the straight-ahead jazz scene, since up to that time Roditi’s fame was mostly limited to Latin-jazz circles. On Gemini Man, his 1988 Milestone debut, the trumpeter succeeded in unifying the elements that made up his musical foundation: bebop, samba, Afro-Cuban, and bossa nova. As a natural consequence of his successful experiments, Roditi now takes his ambitions to a higher plateau on Slow Fire, which is an adventurous journey into intricate rhythms and colorful moods.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1946, Claudio Roditi spent his childhood in Varginha, a small town in the state of Minas Gerais. “In the afternoons, I used to listen to a school band which rehearsed behind my house. From the first moment I saw a trumpet, I knew it was my instrument,” Roditi recalls.
At age thirteen, one of Roditi’s uncles introduced him to modern jazz. “Before that, I liked Dixieland, but then my interest turned to players such as Chet Baker; and in the same year, 1959, I bought Miles Davis’ Round Midnight album which,” Roditi says, “had a deep impact on me”.
Roditi returned to Rio in 1960, initiating a new stage in his musical development. “I had a great teacher, the saxophone player Aurino Ferreira, who opened my mind to one of the most important things in jazz: articulation.” In the Sixties, bossa nova was at its peak in Rio de Janeiro. “I was playing well, but, because people considered me too young, they didn’t call me to work very often.” Finally, in 1964, he was invited to his first recording date and then things began to happen.
Moving to the United States in 1970, Roditi lived in Boston for six years and studied there at the famous Berklee College of Music. After relocating to New York in 1976, he soon established a strong reputation among his peers in jazz, recording on albums by the late Charlie Rouse, Herbie Mann, Bob Mover, Michael Franks, and Dom Um Romão, among others. A turning point came in 1982, when Cuban percussionists Ignacio Berroa and Daniel Ponce, and Brazilian composer Thiago de Mello recommended Claudio to Paquito D’Rivera, with whom Roditi has developed a close musical partnership, recording several albums and touring all over the world.
Throughout the past five years, Roditi has also built a consistent solo career, of which Slow Fire is the most significant recording effort to date. This is evidenced in particular by the cohesion among the players on the session, the first-rate repertoire, the sensitive arrangements (all by Roditi) and, above all, his playing which is impeccable and more mature than ever.
That Roditi has listened to the master of the instrument is evident. His playing is firmly based in the experience that tradition offers. Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Morgan, Roy Eldridge, Clifford Brown, and Freddie Hubbard are all influences but Roditi remains committed to formulating his own identity as a jazz player. Evoking from what he has learned from the past, not merely reproducing it, is the essential trait here. Roditi’s solos are unmistakably his; they combine a great rhythmic sense with a strong melodic concept deeply rooted in his Brazilian heritage.
The trumpeter is also an inspired composer as shown by the six original tunes on Slow Fire. The title track, for instance, is an evocative ballad, on which Roditi’s superb muted playing investigates a seductive harmony. The mood here is enriched by the subtle vocal-like synthesizer work of Daniel Freiberg. The New York-based Argentinian Freiberg is one of the two great keyboardists on the album; the other is the fiery Danilo Perez, from Panama, with whom the trumpeter has recently played in Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations All-Star Orchestra.
A meditative quality permeates “Papagaio” and “It Was Nice Before, In the Rain.” Both feature the velvet sound of Jay Ashby’s trombone sharing the front line with Roditi. These songs create a striking contrast to two contagious sambas: “Annette’s for Sure” and “Brazil, Infinity.” Propelled by the rhythmic virtuosity of Portinho, the best Brazilian drummer currently active in the United States, Roditi offers succinct solos, revealing what John S. Wilson of The New York Times once defined as “a crisp trumpet attack.” The other musician featured on these tracks is tenor player Ralph Moore, who, in Roditi’s words, “shows an enormous talent in a Brazilian context.”
Always keeping a surprise up his sleeve, Roditi reserved room to display his piano artistry on the beautiful ballad “Lullaby for Kristen.” It is a lyrical trio performance with virtuoso bassist David Finck and the consummate drummer Akira Tana.
Another exceptional original is “Feel Good,” written by Roditi’s longtime friend Gaudencio Thiago de Mello. Over an infectious samba beat, including a batucada passage, Roditi performs his solo with characteristic assurance and strength. Perfectly articulated, it confirms that, even on a very fast tempo tune, he doesn’t lack swing, feelings, dynamics, or substance.
Roditi is very much at home on three tunes that are famous in Brazil. The oldest, “Feitio de Oração,” from 1933, is by legendary samba composers Noel Rosa and Vadico and receives a surprisingly jazzy treatment, with Roditi confirming that his mastery of the flugelhorn is matched only by veterans Art Farmer and Clark Terry. The other two numbers – “Molambo”, a bolero from the Fifties, and “Carolina,” the Chico Buarque hit from the Sixties – are sung by Roditi in Portuguese. Both song contain notable rhythmic colors by Dominican percussionist Rafael Cruz.
In trying to interpret the meaning behind the album’s title, one might suggest that it is connected to the way Roditi’s career has developed – no sudden explosion but rather a slow, continuous, and consistent musical growth. This slow fire could also suggest the quality of his playing throughout the album: it is always intense, warm, and full of passion. The music burns not only in the energetic solos but on the slow and medium-tempo tunes as well. Now, let Claudio Roditi Slowfire on you.
- Arnaldo DeSouteiro, May 1989
Arnaldo DeSouteiro, a Rio de Janeiro-based music critic, is Keyboard magazine’s Brazilian correspondent.
1. Slow Fire (Roditi) 5:25
2. Papagaio (The Kite) (Roditi) 3:27
3. Feel Good (Thiago de Mello) 4:04
4. Molambo (Vagabond) (Jayme Florence/Augusto Mesquita) 4:23
5. Feitio de Oração (Noel Rosa/Vadico) 5:58
6. Annette's for Sure (Roditi) 3:57
7. Carolina (Chico Buarque de Hollanda) 4:06
8. Brazil, Infinity (Roditi) 4:06
9. It Was Nice Before, in the Rain (Roditi) 5:25
10. Lullaby for Kristen (Roditi) 3:46
CD Milestone MCD-9175-2
LP Milestone M-9175-1
CS Milestone 5M-9175
Jay Ashby - Trombone
Ignacio Berroa - Drums
Phil Carroll - Artwork, Art Direction
Rafael Cruz - Percussion
Thiago de Mello - Percussion
Arnaldo DeSouteiro - Liner Notes
David Finck - Bass
Daniel Freiberg - Synthesizer
David Gahr - Photography
George Horn - Mastering
Helen Keane - Producer
Gilles Margerin - Design
Rudy Martoni - Remixing, Assistant Engineer
Ralph Moore - Sax (Tenor)
Scott Noll - Engineer, Remixing
Danílo Perez - Piano
Portinho - Percussion, Drums
Claudio Roditi - Percussion, Piano, Trumpet, Arranger, Flugelhorn, Vocals
Akira Tana - Drums