This CD updates a fabled moment in musical history: the birth of small-group Brazilian jazz. It happened in the late ‘50s, when a string of hip clubs in Rio’s Zona Sul (the beach area) offered an effervescent new sound, known as bossa nova. The music took flight when the sun went down: a sensual, pulsing style, rooted in the aggressive rhythms of samba but softened by the influence of cool jazz. It traveled to America around 1962 and revolutionized jazz, inspiring such milestone albums as Stan Getz’s Jazz Samba.
The Getz recordings were composer-pianist Roger Davidson’s introduction to the music of Brazil. He heard them as a boy in New York, and they stayed in his mind long after he had begun traveling through the U.S. and Europe to study classical music. By the late ‘70s Roger was based in Boston, where he led a celebrated chamber orchestra; wrote sacred choral music, a specialty of his; and taught. Since then he has blossomed into a composer of sprawling versatility. Besides choral works, Roger’s catalogue includes a broad array of symphony, chamber, jazz, and world music. Amid the last category, his passion for Latin music burns the brightest, hence his recent albums devoted to tango, bolero, and bossa nova.
In all cases, he gave these familiar styles a new twist. On his 2005 album Rodgers in Rio, he set Richard Rodgers standards in bossa settings, led by his tuneful, jazz-inspired piano playing. Now, in Bom Dia (Portuguese for “good day”), Roger weds his own songs to a full range of samba rhythms, from the percussive Carnaval style to the delicate murmur of the bossa nova. “Brazilian music has been a really strong interest of mine for a long time,” he explains. “It’s music that’s very relaxing; I feel like I’m on vacation every time I play it. It’s also danceable, and has a rhythm that no other music does.”
Brazil, of course, has produced a strong percentage of the world’s most bewitching tunes – another attraction for Roger, whose work in all categories reveals his love for melody. This is no academic modern composer writing over anyone’s head; even without words, the message of his music is clear.
So is the rapport among him and his three musicians. Two of them joined him on Rodgers in Rio, and he couldn’t have found better. David Finck is an American bassist whose mastery knows few barriers; Dizzy Gillespie, Aretha Franklin, Rosemary Clooney, Linda Eder, George Michael, and Andre Previn have all benefited from David’s precise pitch, swinging time, and impeccable taste. He’s also a Brazilian specialist who has played with many of the country’s giants, including Cesar Camargo Mariano, Ivan Lins, and Leny Andrade. Roger has used him on almost all his Latin and jazz recordings since 1991. “He’s the best bassist-collaborator that I could imagine. He’s got consistently great rhythm, and he’s extremely alert to every nuance that I’m playing, so I always feel that he’s right with me.”
Since the ‘70s, Paulo Braga has been known as one of the innovators of modern Brazilian drumming, with a command that bridges samba, bossa nova, and jazz. Born in Minas Gerais, Paulo has played for a long line of Brazilian royalty, notably Elis Regina, Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, and his maestro for fifteen years, Antônio Carlos Jobim. In 1995 he moved from Rio to New York, where he was hired by some of the biggest names in jazz (Joe Henderson, Randy Brecker, and Pat Metheny, to name a few) as well as Yo-Yo Ma (on the acclaimed CD Obrigado Brazil). Just before he returned to Rio in 2005, Paulo accompanied Roger on this CD. “He’s a great musician, and a lot of fun,” says Roger. “He gives the best support, and he made the tunes sound even more Brazilian than they otherwise might have.”