The consistency of music played by Claudio Roditi during his substantial career is noteworthy, as he straddles the line between his native Brazilian sounds and modern mainstream jazz. What sets Simpatico apart is the fact that these are all his original compositions, a first for the trumpet and flügelhorn veteran. It's a lively set, played by the always ultra-melodic Roditi and one of the very best bands he has ever assembled. Ex-Dizzy Gillespie electric bass guitarist John Lee, the exceptional pianist Helio Alves, fellow Brazilians Duduka DaFonseca on drums, and acoustic guitarist Romero Lubambo, can headline groups on their own, while newcomer Michael Dease on the trombone -- with no saxophone, flute, or any woodwinds within earshot -- support the brassy, lyrical, and lithe sound of Roditi. In many ways, you hear the style of Gillespie as buoyed by Lee during the hopped-up samba "How Intensitive" inspired by the Jobim standard "How Insensitive," with an excited Lubambo, or the sweet, low-key, cool bossa/blues "Alfitude" with Roditi on the muted piccolo trumpet, and a shade of Miles Davis tossed in. Even more like Diz, "Slammin'" has the carefree, loose, and steamy qualities both Gillespie and Roditi have admired in the South American music brand. The CD is bookended by seasonal thoughts, as "Spring Samba" has a straight-ahead attitude with Roditi and Dease collaborating, while the always terrific Alves gets into the fray on this one, and the samba-to-bop closer "Winter Dreams." In similar fashion to Art Blakey, the playful shuffle "Blues for Ronni" has all the earmarks of a standard, and bodes well for Dease's future considering his fine solo. Lubambo's feature "Vida Nova" also has classic trappings as the brightest tune of the set, perfect vehicles for the trumpeter's lead, the constant support via Alves, and the guitarists high degree of virtuosity. Roditi's even sings nicely on one tune, "Waltz for Joana," in a crooner style, and there's an orchestrated piece, "Slow Fire," that stands out in its syrupy sweetness. There should be no mystery by now that Claudio Roditi is one of the very best performers in jazz, and now he can be equally feted as a fine writer, hinted at on his other efforts, but now in full bloom.
by Michael G. Nastos