A Taste of the Tropics
Rick Udler’s first album was released in 1996 and was a collaboration with singer Maria Alvim. Rhythm & Romance (MAL 71001) received praises from jazz critics all over. Mark Holston called it “an album of extraordinary sonic pleasures.” In 1999, Rick produced Paulinho Nogueira’s Reflexões (Malandro Records MAL 73001). Though Rick continued performing and writing songs, it was only in 2006 that he released his next project.
Papaya is Rick’s second album and his first solo endeavor. All instrumental, the CD shines in its proposition to highlight the acoustic guitar in a variety of settings. Accompanying Rick’s acoustic guitar, João Parahyba stuns on percussion along with Zé Alexandre Carvalho on bass and Lika Meinberg on piano. The repertoire features all original compositions. In today’s market, that proves a bold move for an artist, especially a young guitarist that is not known by the masses yet.With 10 years separating RIck’s two albums, it is only natural he had penned many new songs during this hiatus. When I asked him what led him to choose an all-original repertoire, Rick said:
I love to compose and when I played these tunes at performances the feedback was positive, which led me to believe that the time was right to record them. Some of them are over ten years old and I didn’t want them to wait around any longer. Recording the older songs actually makes room for new compositions to arrive, which happened before this CD was finished.
There’s a practical reason for recording only self-penned pieces as well. In Brazil there’s quite a bit of bureaucracy involved in recording many of my favorite composers’ works, and as an independent artist I didn’t want to deal with some of the legal obstacles that this would involve.
For the listener and guitar lover, Rick’s choice of original material is also a wonderful realization. It gives us the chance to hear the composer perform his own music. It is new and exciting acoustic guitar music. Of course the time these gems had been kept from a studio album presented yet another challenge: what to choose among several compositions. Rick answered:
The premise was that this was going to be an eclectic recording which would express my background. I was raised in the U.S. and in Brazil, and I wanted the CD to showcase that. Another important factor in choosing the material was that all the tunes were conceived with the option of being performed as solo guitar pieces or in duo and trio settings. The compositions reflect what was going on in my life at the time that they were being written. There are tunes that date back to the early 90s and others that were sketches which I completed as we were recording the album. I liked the contrast between the different periods and thought it would make for a more enjoyable listening experience. I was looking at the album as a whole and I didn’t want it to be monotonous.
I see no conflict in recording bossas, choros and other Brazilian rhythms next to a ragtime and some blues and jazz-influenced pieces. And there’s at least one tune on the album that I’m not sure how to categorize. Ultimately distinctions are becoming less important to me. I like different types of music and these influences make their way into my songs, sometimes in the same tune. For me this is a natural process since different moods and grooves appeal to me.
The variety in this repertoire, as Rick points out, proves itself indeed a great asset of Papaya. For example, the opener “Amigo Paulo” (dedicated to Paulinho Nogueira) is a great bossa contrasting with the jazzy tones in “Nawlins.” The Baden Powell tribute in “Tribal” is another gorgeous piece. Rick captured the essence of Baden Powell in this lively tune. As for “Choro pra J.P.” (dedicated to João Parahyba), we are taken into the choro world with Lika Meinberg’s piano solo, an unforgettable moment in the album.
Rick’s composing style is captivating, elaborate and yet unpretentious. He is able to emulate the masters (Baden Powell, Paulinho Nogueira and others) without falling into the traps of copying them. He is original and fresh. Of his composing style, he adds:
Sometimes the music flows effortlessly, but that usually happens when I’m in a particular frame of mind. When I’m composing I can be quite focused, especially if it’s for a CD. It’s as if everything else becomes secondary. I feel very alive and fulfilled during these moments. Usually tunes come in bursts of inspiration and then I become obsessed as I try to give them a definitive form. I may have a method, but I don’t know what it is on a conscious level. I guess it’s just a question of having one’s antenna up and receiving the signals coupled with a bit of craftsmanship. Having said that, though, I must point out that each new tune is a mystery until it takes shape.
Rick Udler’s Papaya exemplifies an artisan’s work and his concern for a “definitive form” of good music.
Please visit Rick Udler to learn more about this release and listen to sample tracks.
Independent RU10001 (2006)
All compositions by Rick Udler.
- Amigo Paulo
- Dia de Sol
- Durante a Chuva
- Choro pa J.P.
- Kind of Green
- The Tramp