Horse and Fish is Brazilian guitarist and composer Vinicius Cantuaria's fifth studio outing and his sixth overall. It is in some ways a radical departure and in others a full maturation of the hints and promises he's made since his debut offering, Sol Na Cara, in 1997. Cantuaria -- playing electric and acoustic guitars -- and his sextet (which includes the wonderful Paul Socolow on bass and the lyrical impressionistic trumpeter Michael Leonhart) execute a program of samba classics and originals read through a cooking meld of Latin and Brazilian jazz and pop atmospherics. It takes guts to open an album with a radically new read of Gilberto Gil's trademark "Procissão," much less rework it entirely. But Cantuaria's restless musical personality dictates nothing less. Moving this progressive samba into rock and jazz terrains with subtle funky keyboards, modal trumpet lines, and guitar fills that dreamily (à la Hendrix) play counterpoint to layered, sensual polyrhythms not only offers Gil a tribute for his compositional prowess, but sets Cantauria's own watermark high for the rest of the set. Rather than try to follow it in kind, Cantuaria and band shift gears with a moody and sweet little tune of his own (stretched by subtle electronics and textures) called "Quase Choro," and it is a "quasi-choro" rhythmically and melodically. And so it goes. The constant shift between beautiful samba tunes tastefully and subtly reworked in the (post)modern idiom, like Roberto Menescal's "O Barquinho," with its lilting guitars and staggered light keyboard touches, is stretched further out of time and space by the sheer tenderness in Cantuaria's folk tunes like "Perritos," where his acoustic guitar's single notes and chords ring through his vocals and buoy them into the transcendent heart of his melody. But there are fireworks, too, such as in the sexed-up Latin jazz of his "Cubanos Postizos," where Cuban son, merengue, and funky samba entwine and soul-kiss one another. Cantuaria is a startlingly diverse songwriter, and Horse and Fish displays his array to dazzling effect. From the shimmering bossa of "Look the Sky" to the nocturnal guitar pop of "Tokyo" to the elegant yet edgy avant Brazilian pop of "O Nome Dela," Cantuaria is nearly boundless in his ability to approach, stretch, and reinvent song forms with great taste and tenderness. Add to this covers of two Jobim tunes -- "Ligia" and "Este Seu Olhar" -- that create aural portraits of love, lust, brokenness, and devotion, and one has an album that stands apart. Horse and Fish is a very special recording, one that listeners can encounter on many different levels. It will enchant, challenge, seduce, surprise, and delight anyone who approaches it without prejudice. Simply brilliant.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek