This is a very special album in many ways. First, it is a dream come true for guitarist Joe Carter to record in Rio de Janeiro with Brazilian musicians; second, it shows the love, understanding and respect for the music itself; third, it is a labor of love.
Joe always had an ambition to record Brazilian compositions with Brazilian musicians. It’s his thinking that this is the best way to play the music authentically, instead of trying a mixed bag of sorts with musicians not familiar with the songs and rhythms. It will be immediately apparent that he established a close rapport with Mauricio Einhorn, Luiz Alves and Joao Cortez.
Before I discuss the music, let me say that I have known all the musicians involved in this project for some time. My first contact with Joe Carter happened about twelve years ago through a series of letters. After several years we finally met in late October 1987 in New York City. I’ll never forget that first meeting – it was like we had known each other for a long time. On that very cold night we talked about many things, especially music, of course. We were extremely pleased that finally we were facing each other with so many things to share and tell. I was especially happy because I put him in contact with the owner of PEOPLE, one of Rio’s leading Jazz clubs. Luckily things happened as we both wished and in May of the next year Joe played two weeks in Rio with great success. At that time he met several Brazilian musicians that he had heard on records and played with them, among many others, the late great pianist Luiz Eca (the composer of “The Dolphin”) and drummer Claudio Caribe. I am quite sure this trip definitely sealed Joe’s love for Brazil and its music. In 1989 we met again in New York and Joe did all he could for my wife and myself. His kindness, and that of his family, touched our hearts. Two years later he played again in Rio, this time at the Rio Jazz Club and he also gave a clinic/ workshop at Musiarte, Rio’s music school. The following year he returned to Rio to record this session and to give another workshop at Musiarte.
As I wrote before, this album is a labor of love. Carter planned it carefully and he knew exactly what he wanted when he arrived at Galeao airport in Rio. The choice of tunes, the arrangements, the tempos, everything was meticulously worked out. Einhorn, Alves and Cortez were no strangers to Joe. As a matter of fact they had played together in different combinations on his previous trips.
I have known Einhorn and Alves for a very long time, Joao for about ten years. It is obvious what I think of their musicianship. But of equal importance is the humble dedication they bring to their art. No excess, no decibel overkill, no fads or trends, just four cats serving the music the best way they know. The essence of the music is in the communication between them. This album clearly demonstrates this with a very high level of craftsmanship and skill.
Mauricio Einhorn has played and recorded with so many artists, among them Toots Thielemans, Sarah Vaughan, Helen Merrill, the Rio Jazz Orchestra, Sebastiao Tapajos, Baden Powell, Bobby McFerrin and Luiz Eca. One of the best Brazilian musicians, he composed many songs in the Bossa Nova period: Estamos Ai, Batida Diferente, Alvorado, Clouds, Joyce’s Samba, Sambop and the list goes on.
Luiz Alves also has a very impressive background, having played with Wagner Tiso and Robertinho Silva in the seminal Som Imaginario group. He also played and recorded with Luiz Eca, Milton Nascimento, Moacyr Santos, Nana Caymmi, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and many others. His impeccable time, sound and innate sense to anticipate ideas for his companions is one of his trademarks.
Drummer Joao Cortez is unique these days when drummers rarely play musically, preferring to make noise with no restraint. Joao is a sort of Kenny Clarke or Billy Higgins, a drummer that is felt more than heard, especially in this type of context. He also plays brushes expertly, a rarity among Brazilian drummers.
This brings me to the leader’s credentials: Joe Carter has recorded and played with Jazz artists such as Art Farmer, Lee Konitz, Cecil Payne, Junior Cook, Harvie Swartz, Rufus Reid, Hendrik Meurkens, Don Friedman and many others. The Brazilian musicians he has worked with, in addition to this group, include Robertinho Silva, Luiz Eca, Claudio Caribe, Nilson Matta, Portinho and Alosio Aguiar.
Individually and collectively, all the men involved are masters of their instruments. They are a joy to hear. Perhaps most remarkable is the group’s ability to make music that is very much of today, yet firmly rooted in the tradition, always retaining the qualities of spontaneity and the essential rhythmic flow.
For variety Joe Carter recorded in different group settings, from solo guitar to trio to the full quartet. Joe, always noted for the gentle lines he plays, keeps the melodic essence of each composition, reshaping its melody and improvising with good taste. His lyrical introduction and the way he states Dindi in ballad time preparing the ground for Mauricio Einhorn is masterful. His statement on Tarde Em Itapoa is delicate and yet retains the sad quality of the song. On the classic Samba De Orfeu, a strong reading of one of the best known Brazilian songs, he flies upon the swing of Luiz and Joao, on an interpretation that shows what samba is all about. Joe dedicated Brigas Nunca Mais to the memory of his beloved mother, a gentle woman that I had the privilege to know on one of the happiest moments of my life. He also dedicated Esperanca Perdida to the memories of Luiz Eca and Claudio Caribe, making the tribute one of the most moving tracks of the session.
This is a most satisfying session. First rate musicians who lead and follow each other through a rich repertoire. Joe Carter is a perfectionist to whom music is a supreme form of art. I am sure the listener will welcome a cheerful bit of music that will provide satisfaction and the fulfillment of the desire to hear some beautiful explorations as the interpretations of this album.
After years of hoping to record Brazilian songs with Brazilian musicians, Joe Carter did it. By all means this is a landmark on his discography and perhaps the beginning of new recordings in his second home: Brazil, where he has made so many friends and has earned the respect from everyone who has had the privilege to know him and to be his friend.
Jose Domingos Raffaelli
O Globo, Rio de Janeiro April 1993
The two week gig at PEOPLE in 1988 that Jose mentions was indeed a turning point in my life. In addition to working steadily with two of Rio’s best musicians (bassist Paulo Russo and drummer Claudio Caribe) I had the opportunity to meet and play with Luiz Eca, whose group followed mine each night (Luiz Alves was the bassist in that group). I also met Mauricio on that trip, having already heard him on records. That trip also gave me the chance to sit in with various groups, one that included Joao Cortez who I included on my Rio Jazz club gig two years later.
Since this recording I continue to go back to Rio and other cities in Brazil to perform and teach. I do consider Brazil my second home and embrace all my friends I’ve come to know there.