Só: Brazilian Essence (Sunnyside Records)

Romero Lubambo

Released February 4, 2014

DownBeat Five-Star Review






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. 

Track Listing:

1. Aquarela Do Brasil (Tom Jobim / Vinícius de Moraes) 4:18

2. Brigas Nunca Mais (Tom Jobim / Vinícius de Moraes) 3:35

3. Paquito In Bremen (Romero Lubambo) 4:19

4. Pedra Bonita (Mario Adnet) 4:05

5. Você E Eu (Carlos Lyra / Vinícius de Moraes) 4:01

6. Song For Kaya (Romero Lubambo) 4:56

7. Luisa (Romero Lubambo) 3:03

8. Coisa Mais Linda (Carlos Lyra / Vinícius de Moraes) 3:43

9. Insensatez (Tom Jobim / Vinícius de Moraes) 5:56

10. Samambaia (César Camargo Mariano) 5:39

11. By the Stream (Pamela Driggs / Romero Lubambo) 5:13

12. A Felicidade (Tom Jobim / Vinícius de Moraes) 4:01

13. Laura (Johnny Mercer / David Raksin) 4:12


Romero Lubambo: guitar, vocals (8)

Recording Engineer: David Darlington


It will come as no surprise to anyone who has heard the duo of Luciana Souza and Romero Lubambo that the Brazilian guitarist is, by himself, the equivalent of an entire samba band. Indeed, at their shows together, it is not uncommon for the singer, whose own skills are prodigious, to stand to one side and stare at him, as if aghast at his fearsome technique. His new CD will evoke the same sense of awe and delight. Besides his celebrated duo work with Souza, Lubambo is a founding member of the innovative Brazilian jazz group Trio da Paz (with bassist Nilson Matta and drummer Duduka da Fonseca). He is also among the most oft-recorded Brazilian guitarists in America, gracing the albums of Dianne Reeves, Yo-Yo Ma, Jane Monheit and other big names. Here are some synonyms for Só, the title of his new live-in-studio album: sozinho, único, isolado, solitário—you get the idea. Unlike his excellent 2006 album, Softly (MaxJazz), on which he layered tracks using various types of guitars, this one is like having Lubambo come over to your house and play an impromptu concert in your living room. Verisimilitude, not perfection, is the goal; yet there’s hardly a note you would change in this set, alternately fiery and intimate, mixing Brazilian classics with his own compositions. The album’s subtitle, “Brazilian Essence,” perhaps a concession to the marketplace, is apt, but his playing does more than honor the heritage of these tunes; he adds something that is pure Lubambo: tender phrasing, creative jazz voicings and, at times, intense percussive effects. He tosses melodies, bass lines and rhythms in the air like juggling clubs—not one falls to earth. The album begins with a rhythmic and harmonic exploration of “Aquarela Do Brasil,” Ary Barroso’s 1939 mega-hit, better known as simply “Brazil.” In Lubambo’s hands, it becomes an exhilarating tour de force. Sensuous melodies and rhythms abound: “Pedra Bonita,” a lovely Mario Adnet samba previously recorded with Trio da Paz; three by Jobim (“Brigas Nunca Mais,” “A Felicidade” and “Insensatez”); two by Carlos Lyra, another architect of the bossa nova movement; and four tuneful originals, all compelling and lovely. For good measure, he even throws in a vocal on Lyra’s “Coisa Mais Linda,” revealing a winning sincerity and gentleness. Só is a must for all fans of Brazilian guitar and the purest expression of Lubambo’s art to date.

Allen Morrison (DownBeat)