Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Opus Samba" - All Music Guide review

Fabio Fonseca Trio: “Opus Samba” (JSR 6054)
Review by Alex Henderson for All Music Guide
Rating: ****

Brazilian jazz isn't the first thing that comes to mind when one is discussing the Hammond B-3, an instrument closely identified with the gritty soul-jazz of organ masters like Jack McDuff, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Shirley Scott (who was also a fine pianist), Jimmy McGriff and, of course, the seminal Jimmy Smith. But Brazilian jazz and the B-3 are an appealing combination on Opus Samba, which Arnaldo DeSouteiro produced for organist Fabio Fonseca in Brazil. Fonseca (who is joined by Pedro Leão on electric bass and Mac William on drums and percussion) also plays some electric keyboards on this 54-minute CD, but his B-3 is the main attraction. An interesting variety of influences are heard on Opus Samba, ranging from Charles Earland (one of Jimmy Smith's most creative disciples) to Azymuth to percussionist Airto Moreira's Creed Taylor-produced CTI recordings of the '70s. DeSouteiro, in fact, has cited Taylor as a major influence, and Opus Samba is a melodic, samba-friendly album that — although not overly slick — is accessible and easy to absorb. Accessibility serves Fonseca well on his own compositions as well as an intriguing arrangement of Stevie Wonder's "Too High" (which has no problem lending itself to a Brazilian jazz/fusion setting), and it serves him well on "A Mulher de 15 Metros" (which features Brazilian singer Ithamara Koorax and is the only vocal offering on a mostly instrumental album). Taylor, of course, has his detractors, who complain that he had a tendency to overproduce in the '60s and '70s, and to be sure, there were times when Taylor was too slick for his own good. But when Taylor (who produced plenty of five-star classics for CTI) achieved the right balance of accessibility and jazz-minded spontaneity, he really excelled as a producer. And DeSouteiro, much to his credit, achieves that type of balance on Opus Samba, which demonstrates that the B-3 can be a major asset in Brazilian jazz.

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