Phil DeGreg is well known in the mid-west as the house pianist at Cincinnati's famous Blue Wisp Jazz Club, author of the text "Jazz Keyboard Harmony", and professor of jazz studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. This project, his seventh CD, is an uplifting collaboration with some of Brazil's finest players, recorded in Brasilia. Jovino Santos Neto, grammy nominated Brazilian jazz pianist, composer, and author, wrote these notes to the CD:
"Some of the most successful musical discoveries of recent
times have taken place by the combination of elements from
different cultures, exploring the contrasts and similarities
between them. This happened at first within national borders,
as with the blend of African and European musical languages
in New Orleans which gave birth to jazz, or with the more
complex mixtures which led to the many styles of Brazilian music.
More recently, we can hear the results of further blends of
those elaborate languages among themselves, creating yet more
subtleties and colors than were ever thought possible.
Phil DeGreg has added another layer to this story. An
accomplished jazz pianist, composer and educator, he took on
the task of absorbing the essence of the music from Brazil
not as an intellectual exercise, but as a deep process of
internalizing and codifying its syntax and grammar.
Many other American musicians have tried this blend, with
differing degrees of musical and critical success. In my
opinion, Phil has done the right thing, by seriously studying
the rhythmic structures underlying much of Brazilian music
before he even went to Brazil. This avoided an all too common
pitfall, which is American jazz musicians playing bebop lines
over a generic "Latin" beat, definitely not the case here.
Next, he chose his repertoire well, combining known and
not-so-known standards by Jobim (Triste, Brigas Nunca Mais
and the beautiful ballads Caminhos Cruzados and Retrato em
Branco e Preto), mining from the deep well of Brazilian jazz
samba (Estamos Aí), exploring the baião grooves in Hermeto
Pascoal's classic Bebê, a couple of all-time jazz favorites
(Speak Low and All Blues), plus adding 2 of his own originals
(Nicola and Julia's Swing). This eclectic sampling could
easily have become a patchwork without musical continuity
were it not for Phil's solid piano style, revealing his
personality, whether in the tasteful solos or in while
accompanying his band mates.
Here, again, Phil chose very well, inviting some of the most
vibrant players of the new generation: Moisés Alves on
trumpet, André Vasconcellos on bass, Leander Motta on
percussion and one of my favorite drummers, Erivelton Silva.
From the first seconds of opening track, you can hear the
difference in the way the 16th. notes are delivered. Yes,
this is the real deal... The collective interaction and joy
is evident in all the tracks. Phil leads, but allows for
ample room for everyone to expand and delve deep into the
solid grooves. He does not hide his musical voice in the name
of empty stylistic authenticity, but combines the best of
both worlds into a cohesive project that will definitely
please listeners on both sides of the Equator.