It might surprise you that Felipe Oliveira is only 17 years old. Who is this performer born in the northeast of Brazil (in Fortaleza), an area most definitely not known for its jazz traditions? He started his musical education at the young age of seven. Though at first he was studying piano, he fell in love with the clarinet in high school, and the rest is the beginning of a very promising career as a sax player. Oliveira truly is a name to keep in mind, especially since Musiconauta, his second CD, just won the 2002 Prémio Nelsons for best instrumental release, and Oliveira himself was also voted the best instrumental composer in the same awards. This feat was preceded in 2000, when Oliveira took home similar awards as a new artist and songwriter in the instrumental category. Not bad for a 15-year-old kid then. Citing among his favorite musicians Paulo Sérgio Santos (clarinet), Paulo Moura (sax and clarinet), João Donato (piano), John Coltrane (sax) and an array of who’s who in the jazz world, Oliveira brings solid performances in this well-produced album of originals and standards.
The real surprise in Musiconauta, though, is that Oliveira writes a lot of his own stuff and that he plays like a pro. Musiconauta packs excitement. The wake-up call to Brazil, “Desperta, Brasil,” is appropriately chosen as the opening track to carry the album. The fast tempo is held in place by Hoto Júnior’s bouncy percussion and Rian Batista’s groovy bass, while Márcio Resende’s dazzling flute solos alternate with Oliveira’s awesome performance. He grabs your attention then and won’t let you down for the nice 70-minute plus duration of the album. In addition to these fine musicians, other members of Oliveira’s band include Ítalo Almeida (keyboards), Denilson Lopes (drums), Cristiano Pinho (guitars) as well as special appearances by Luiz Duarte (drums) and Jeff Gardner (piano).
Though Oliveira shows excellent command on the up tempo songs in Musiconauta, one cannot miss his superb phrasing on soft tunes, too. The first example is with Djavan’s “Esquinas.” After a short piano introduction by Almeida (he’s Marimbanda’s keyboardist), Oliveira softly warms the scene and sets the arrangement on fire with a spirited, and yet gentle, solo. The same sensuality is repeated with Oliveira’s own “Dança das Nuvens.” Here he’s joined by Márcio Resende’s tenor sax, who also features his own “Passeio de Barco.” The title track, “Musiconauta,” is a smooth bossa nova showing once again Oliveira’s fine music writing skills.
The alto sax is not Oliveira’s only specialty. He is also impressive on the clarinet as heard in “Aluarte,” “Suave” and “Sorrindo do Congresso.” Incidentally, David Duarte guest stars on the guitar in “Aluarte.” Marimbanda’s drummer Luiz Duarte arranged his own “Suave” and also plays the drums in that track. Yet another fine Duarte tune is “Correnteza,” with Oliveira back soloing his alto sax. A spicy track, “Sorrindo do Congresso” is lively and pairs up Oliveira’s dazzling clarinet with Carlos Patriolino’s remarkable mandolin accompaniment. The U.S. standard “My One and Only Love” closes the album with Oliveira in a duet with pianist Jeff Gardner. Piano and sax compliment each other in this beautiful arrangement. Prior to that, two soulful songs must still be mentioned: Gardner’s own “Donatiando” and Tom Jobim and Aloysio de Oliveira’s “Dindi.” The former, as the name implies, does have a delicious João Donato flavor in its beat and Gardner’s piano solo. As for “Dindi,” I am at a loss for words to describe the moving arrangement created by Almeida. He also plays the piano on that track and provides the only subtle accompaniment for Oliveira’s performance.
Musiconauta is like the poem inspired by “Dança das Nuvens,” by Paulo Roberto. The chords and notes Oliveira plays in this album fill the air with sounds to calm our lives and lift our spirits. Oliveira dances at ease whether playing the sax or clarinet, and when he adds his own writing talents to the pot, the result is even more fulfilling.
- Desperta, Brasil (Felipe Oliveira)
- Esquinas (Djavan)
- Donatiando (Jeff Gardner)
- Dança das Nuvens (Felipe Oliveira)
- Via Láctea (Aroldo Araújo)
- Musiconauta (Felipe Oliveira)
- Aluarte (Márcio Resende – Heraldo Amaral – David Duarte)
- Dindi (Tom Jobim – Aloysio Oliveira)
- Suave (Luiz Duarte)
- Sorrindo do Congresso (Tarcísio Sardinha)
- Correnteza (Luiz Duarte)
- Passeio de Barco (Márcio Resende)
- My One and Only (Guy Wood – Robert Mellin)