A Trip to Paradise
If you still have any doubts that Brazilian music is definitely reaching the far ends of this globe, you might want to check out Malandro Records, out of Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1996, I received Malandro’s Rick Udler & Maria Alvim’s Rhythm & Romance. Mixing original compositions with other songs by Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento and even George Gershwin, that debut release was the promise of excellent material coming out of that new label. The promise has been kept.
Juarez Moreira’s Bom Dia (Good Morning) was released in 1998. Hailing from the state of Minas Gerais, a state that has given the world artists such as Milton Nascimento, Ary Barroso, Toninho Horta and Clara Nunes, Juarez Moreira continues that tradition and showcases a “mix of every musical element from Brazil and interprets them in a majestic way,” says Milton Nascimento himself. With the exception of Tom Jobim and Chico Buarque’s Sabiá, the last track in this magnificent collection, all other 13 tracks are original compositions by Juarez Moreira. What a composer he is! A self-taught guitar player who has performed with the cream of Brazilian music — names such as Maria Bethânia, Paulo Moura and Wagner Tiso — Juarez Moreira is no stranger to those who accompany the vast number of outstanding guitar players in Brazil. Toninho Horta’s 1988 release, Diamond Land, was named after one of Moreira’s compositions, and that track is also included in Bom Dia.
Upon hearing Bom Dia, you will understand why Milton Nascimento says this CD is a “trip to paradise.” Covering a variety of Brazilian genres, such as forró, choro, baião, samba and bossa nova, Juarez Moreira crosses over all musical boundaries. His music is truly a gift to the world. Along with Moreira, keyboardist André Dequech shares the responsibility of signing the arrangements in Bom Dia. You can distinctly feel Dequech’s touch in the title track, for example. Starting with a contemporary jazz arrangement, Bom Dia immediately switches the mood to a slow samba with shades of toada. The musicians, one by one, are featured in this track. In particular, Zeca Assumpção’s bass work sets the tone for the subsequent tracks. Assumpção is known for his appearances in Caetano Veloso’s band, as Veloso toured the U.S. in 1997.
Besides Assumpção, an array of Brazilian musicians parades track after track. Paulo Moura’s sax lends a hand in “Depois do Amor” (After the Love) and “Chora Jazz” (Cry Jazz), whereas Toninho Horta divides a guitar solo with Moreira in “Samba pra Toninho” (Samba for Toninho). That track is particularly exceptional, and we are the winners to hear a duel between two major Brazilian guitarists. The music flows peacefully. Being a landlocked central state, Minas Gerais seems to benefit from its beautiful geography and location. Thus, it is no wonder to hear influences from neighboring northeastern states in “Baião Barroco” (Baroque Baião). Moreira’s acoustic guitar here is especially reminiscent of the “cantadores” (dueling improvisers) style. Nenen’s (his real name is Esdra Ferreira) drums are phenomenal, too. “Chora Jazz” is another precious gem. The rhythm, however, is more like a choro. “Valsa pra Maria” (Waltz for Maria) is sublime. If there were words to this melody, they would clearly be speaking of love. Moreira’s guitar conveys that idea without a doubt. In “Último Adeus” (Last Goodbye), Nivaldo Ornelas plays tenor sax and Cliff Korman is featured on keyboards. Along with Moreira’s electric guitar, this song again speaks to you without ever using words. It is passionately sad and beautiful at the same time. In a series of outstanding compositions, “Último Adeus” is destined to be one of Moreira’s best. What is there to say, then, about Tom Jobim and Chico Buarque’s “Sabiá”? Many people have recorded this tune, but Moreira’s rendition sets itself apart from all others. It soars quietly and gently like the bird about which it sings.
We are fortunate to have Malandro Records bring this incomparable release into our homes. Hopefully we will be able to hear other Juarez Moreira releases in the future (he has released 5 CDs in Brazil). Moreira is capable of touching everyone’s heart with the rich melodies he plays. He continues a long-standing tradition of excellent Brazilian guitarists, and he does it with a style that is all his own.
You can hear samples and read more about this fine recording here.
Malandro Records MAL 71003 (1998)
All music by Juarez Moreira, except where noted.
- Bom Dia
- Depois do Amor
- Samba pra Toninho
- Pas de Deux
- Baião Barroco
- Chora Jazz
- Valsa pra Maria
- Nos Trópicos
- Choro para Piazzolla
- No Desafio do Mar (Juarez Moreira – Tadeu Franco)
- Último Adeus (Juarez Moreira – Paulinho Pedra Azul)
- Sabiá (Tom Jobim – Chico Buarque)
A modified version of this review first appeared in Luna Kafé, July 1998