One of Brazil's premier jazz composers, arrangers, producers and saxophonists for more than twenty years, Black Pearls is Leo Gandelman's long-overdue American debut. Black Pearls includes compositions by such Afro-Brazilian legends as Pixinguinha, Milton Nascimento, Djavan and Gilberto Gil, and also Stevie Wonder (with a lush yet funky rendition of the ballad "Overjoyed"). Gandelman has performed on more than five hundred albums by just about every one of Brazil's top musicians and vocalists, and his smoothness shows, even to the point of "smooth jazz" in "Mas Que Nada" (originally a hit for Sergio Mendes) and the languid "Clube da Esquina No. 2." But he more often transports the listener into more rarified, pure jazz atmosphere: The fourth track, "Nana," suggests the vibe to "Maiden Voyage"; "Lamentos" and the set-closing "Perola Negra" tumultuously swing with the big-band feel; and especially on "Toda Menina Baiana," where the whole joint gets seriously jumpin' with a slamming round of solos astride a rhythm section crackling with percussion and spirit. "Choro Negro" and "Me Deixa em Paz," with lyrics, sound as beautiful and romantic as Antonio Carlos Jobim.
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AllMusic Review by Chris Slawecki