To say that this recording is a surprise is an understatement. It is a shock, but not in the way one might expect. First off, this duet appearance by mandolinist Mike Marshall and pianist Jovino Santos Neto is a collection of compositions by the great Brazilian wizard Hermeto Pascoal. Pascoal is easily the most prolific and challenging of Brazil's master musician class and his music transcends all boundaries and genres. Neto is Pascoal's pianist and has been for over 15 years; he is also the executor of his musical estate --though the master is still very much alive, he's too busy composing to trifle with details. He and Marshall teamed with a number of other musicians to offer Pascoal in a unique way. They succeed in spades and perhaps too well. The material here, most of which has never been heard before, is either from a radically subdued side of Pascoal's harmonic personality, has been wildly reinterpreted, or sometimes both. This is not to say that Serenata is in any way a failure or something that is not desirable. Quite the opposite: if anything it is the most listenable recording of the man's music ever issued because it finds its aesthetic space and stays in it. And while their approach is seamless, warm, human, and accessible, it lacks wildness and vision; it settles too easily for feeling rather than challenge. Most listeners will never notice this and it just needed something a little bit edgier. That said, this is nonetheless a fine recording and one that should be heard and appreciated by anyone interested in modern Brazilian music.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek