Baden Powell

At the Rio Jazz Club

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Call this a master class in the art of Brazilian guitar. Recorded live in 1990, it's as stripped-down as it possibly can be, with just one man and his instrument. But when that one man was the late Baden Powell, you really don't need more. Working through a repertoire of samba and bossa nova, he creates a subtle, magical spell whether it's in Pixinguinha's "Rosa" or his own "Choro Em Menor." His fingers are fleet, but he never overdoes things, leaving plenty of space and often implying the complex rhythms at the heart of a piece rather than overtly stating them. Of course, it helps that the material is first-rate; apart from those stated above, there's work by Antonio Carlos Jobim and De Moraes, Goroto and Dorival Caymmi, among others. But he takes their offerings and transforms them into understated, glorious creations that shimmer. Even at his most pensive, Powell is brilliant, and you have to believe he was incapable of anything less. The improvisations flash with strong melodic and harmonic ideas. This is the type of disc aspiring guitarists (of any style) should listen to in wonder. And if you don't play the instrument? Just enjoy.

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