Duduka da Fonseca Quintet, “Samba Jazz—Jazz Samba” & Brazilian Trio “Constelacão” (CD review)

(Recently published in Jazziz; direct link)

Duduka da Fonseca Quintet, “Samba Jazz–Jazz Samba” (Anzic)

Brazilian Trio, “”Constelacao” (Motema)

Duduka Da Fonseca, the Brazilian-born New York drummer and percussionist probably best known as a member of award-winning cooperative Trio da Paz, in recent years has placed a greater emphasis on his quintet with tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Anat Cohen, pianist Helio Alves, guitarist Guilherme Monteiro and bassist Leonardo Cioglia. By default, the group offers a wide range of textures, all of which limn the artfully arranged, rhythmically engaging pieces on Samba Jazz—Jazz Samba.

Cohen’s clarinet might be the disc’s not-so-secret weapon, given the warmth and richness of her tone out front on a reading of Jobim’s “Rancho Das Nuvens,” also featuring Alves, that opens at a slow, stately pace, later accelerating for a short while before simmering down again. It’s a beauty, and Cohen’s clarinet is similarly deployed on a lovely reading of Jimmy Rowles’ “The Peacocks,” all serpentines and shades of melancholy.

There are plenty other moods, tempos and soundscapes, too, including the twisting guitar-and-tenor melody and starting-stopping sections of Dom Salvador’s opening “Depois da Chuva”; a pleasantly grooving take on Ornette Coleman’s “Blues Connotation”; the leader’s light and airy “Flying Over Rio”; and the syncopated, speedy rhythmic figures and catchy tenor/guitar head of the closer, “Melancia,” penned by Rique Pantoja.

Da Fonseca, Alves and bassist Nilson Matta constitute the Brazilian Trio, which, naturally, draws from some of the same sources but is often more muscular and sometimes swings a bit harder than the quintet. Recorded with tremendous clarity and resonance, Constelacão gives the drummer some, with a tumbling, percolating-to-exploding display near the end of the title track.

But the focus is trio synchronicity on beefy tunes like “Embalo,” Jobim’s “Quebra Pedra,” the second half of Matta’s “LVM/Direto Ao Assunto” and Cedar Walton’s “Bolivia,” as well as gorgeous ballads “Luiza” (Jobim) and “Isabella” (Da Fonseca). Exquisite stuff.

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