Apr 02 2016

Jeff Kunkel: Many Happy Returns

Indeed a Happy Return!

Many Happy ReturnsNot too long ago, I reviewed Jeff Kunkel‘s 2013 Meu Coração Brasileiro. That album was his exploration of the “laid-back Brazilian groove,” as he described it. He’s back now with Many Happy Returns. Produced by Jeff Kunkel and Haroldo Mauro Jr., Many Happy Returns shines with great musicians, arrangements and new music. The ensemble accompanying Jeff on piano changed slightly, but the core remains solid. Haroldo Mauro Jr. is on drums, of course, José Arimatéa is the trumpet and flugelhorn, Everson Moraes adds a trombone in one of the tracks, Alex Rocha returns on acoustic and electric bass with a hand by Edson Lobo on acoustic bass, and vocalist Vika Barcellos adds her voice to a few tracks. Special guest Mauro Senise returns in seven of the 11 tracks of this fine album.

Jeff Kunkel has his hands in just about all compositions in the album, except for one by Haroldo Mauro Jr. and another by Tom Jobim and Aloysio de Oliveira. Recorded, mixed and mastered in Rio de Janeiro, the music here exudes the beauty of that city track after track. These are beautiful bossa tracks with superb musicianship. The opener, “Copacabana no Domingo” is rock solid. I especially enjoy the balanced solo play that Jeff, Haroldo and Mauro exhibit in the track.Mauro Senise‘s alto flute is celestial! At times, he also features his alto sax, as in the title track, “Many Happy Returns,” “Bairro Funky” and a few others.

The repertoire is pleasantly varied from slow to up-tempo tracks with the ensemble performing in trio and full format. The faster “Rua Juquiá,” for example, will inevitably make you think of the traditional piano, drum and bass in Brazilian music. Among the few vocal pieces, I tip my hat to “Demais.” Vika Barcellos’ rendition of this Jobim classic is touchingly effective. There’s a little anxiety in her voice at times, and that fits like a glove in this piano and voice master arrangement. The simplicity in the song is grandiose here. In some tracks, Vika only does vocalise, a fact that turns her voice into another instrument playing along with the flute, drums, piano and the whole ensemble. Just listen to “Difícil Descrever” or “Sonhos” to hear what I mean. Yet another memorable moment in the album comes with the smooth and sensual “Everything Is You.” Patricia Begg’s lyrics reminisce about the feeling of holding a loved one’s hands while walking on the beach. You can almost smell the salty air and feel the ocean breeze that this arrangement brings to that song.

Jeff Kunkel has given us another good album with great compositions, unshakeable performances and very enjoyable sound. Bossa returns again, and these guys can surely deliver it.



Jeff Kunkel
Many Happy Returns
Flying Peguin Music FPM001 (2015)
Time: 67/17″

Tracks (all tracks by Jeff Kunkel, except where noted):

  1. Copacabana no Domingo
  2. Rua Juquiá (Haroldo Mauro Jr.)
  3. Many Happy Returns
  4. Leve (Jeff Kunkel – Vika Barcellos)
  5. Bairro Funky
  6. Demais (Antonio Carlos Jobim –  Aloysio de Oliveira)
  7. Difícil Descrever
  8. Everything Is You (Jeff Kunkel – Patricia Begg)
  9. Sonhos
  10. Venha Comigo
  11. Saudade de Você (Instrumental)