Veteran Brazilian percussionist Thiago DeMello (then in his early 70s) long a neglected figure alongside younger more acclaimed players as Airto Moreira, Naná Vasconcelos, and Guillerme Franco, has finally hit resonant notes for the general public to hear on this beautiful recording, with clarinetist Dexter Payne as his main foil and accompanying pianists and occasional vocals. As you'd expect, there's a lot of authentic samba played, and it is done right. Basic sensual rhythms and melodies are the centerpiece for "Tal Como o Vinho," "Too Good Notes" (a play on "One Note Samba" with DeMello on acoustic guitar), the heavy-handed "Mar Aberto," and roomy "No Wolf at the Door." The beautiful singing of Ithamara Koorax is heard on two ballads, but also on the night hymn "An Evening Prayer," as well as the excellent African highlife-flavored title track, dedicated to Che Guevara, which is very close stylistically to what Abdullah Ibrahim and Carlos Ward would do. Payne's playful clarinet empowers the trio, swinging lightly in jazz fashion à la Eddie Daniels during the lyrical "Kimbolian Dawn," he plays pretty during the neo-classical "Rede de Cabocolo," and switches to alto sax for the dancing 6/8 framework of "What About That?" (for Sharon Isbin). The dance theme is further emphasized on "A Hug for Gil Evans," starting with DeMello on the berimbau, and then going for samba rhythms with a Native American chant tacked on. Haroldo Mauro, Jr. is the pianist on six selections, and he's one to pay attention to, while another three feature Richard Kimball, a longtime associate of DeMello. Fans of Brazilian music will want this, but it should also appeal to a broader base of world music lovers, as the diversity, bright spirit, and clear camaraderie between the musicians is evident from start to finish.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos