Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Brazil

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On the heels of its successful Latin album, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ) mines the same vein with Brazil -- seemingly a decision that diverges from its California pastiche aesthetic, but still one very much in line with the trends. Brazilian songbirds fill clubs that are around the corner from Brazilian steakhouses. And, even if it lacks a certain sense of Brazilian relaxation (call it Brazil speeded up to keep pace with L.A. traffic), the disc showcases its eclectic strengths. There's its welcome ability, for example, to pick out repertory that's worthwhile and has that crucial half-remembered quality that seems to be so hard for classical musicians, who veer between boring their audiences and bewildering them, to find. The opening Más que nada, originally a success for Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66, was not the biggest hit of the bossa nova craze but now emerges as one of the deepest, evolving elegantly into a realm of extended harmonies that the LAGQ handles with aplomb. The group reaches back to the classics of bossa nova, in the form of a lovely medley of songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, but also enlists contemporary talents like Sergio Assad, who arranged that medley. The various guest musicians who appear (the vocalist in the Jobim is Luciana Souza) are, as usual with the LAGQ, beautifully worked into the overall concept; one hears, in addition to vocals, a flute, soprano saxophone, and a shifting array of percussion (hear Souza accompanying herself on the fascinating tambourine-like pandeiro on Marco Pereira's Sambadalú, track 9), but there's never a sense that one is listening to anything other than a guitar quartet program. Among the fresh highlights in the form of new compositions is one by another Assad: Clarice Assad, daughter of Sergio, contributed the brisk Bluezilion, track 8. The music sticks close to the bossa nova idiom but spices it sufficiently with turns toward Villa-Lobos and toward more contemporary material. Finally there's the superb sound from Telarc, which would perform a public service if it conducted seminars on how to record guitars close up without leaving the listener awash in distracting noises. The blue print on black background in the booklet will be outlawed and punishable by decapitation come the revolution, so that's not a major problem, and in the meantime anyone looking for Brazilian flavors will enjoy this lighthearted disc.

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