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Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Gui Duvignau, Baden (Sunnyside Records, 2022)

By Jim Marks

Born in France, raised in Brazil, and currently residing in New York, double bassist Gui Duvignau here celebrates the music of the acclaimed Brazilian composer, guitarist, and singer Baden Powell de Aquino (and his collaborators) with a core quintet of Billy Drewes on saxes and clarinet, Laurence Fields on keyboards, and Jeff Hirshfield on drums; Drewes and Hirshfield were also on Duvignau’s previous recording, 3-5-8 (2021). Bill Frisell plays guitar on four of the dozen tracks, and the legendary Ron Carter joins Duvignau on one track for a duo performance.

As the lineup—featuring neither nylon-stringed guitar nor vocals—indicates, Baden is an homage rather than an attempt to recreate the Brazilian guitarist’s sound. According to the liner notes, the approach here “uses Powell’s beloved songs as a foundation for explorative interpretations and improvisations.” Thus, while Baden Powell’s themes are immediately recognizable, the arrangements distance the performances here from the tropicalia context. The result, while especially rewarding for those familiar with the source material, is a thoroughly enjoyable modern jazz album with a strong sense of melody and breezy feel.

The tracks with Frisell demonstrate the cleverness of Duvignau’s choice to enlist a guitarist whose sound is so far removed from that of the Brazilian violao. Frisell often plays off of Drewes, the two having a substantial history of playing together. The reed player, probably best known for his work with Paul Motian in the 1980s, has a breathy tone well-suited to the material.

The lineup allows for a nice range of sounds with various combinations of players. For example, while the quintet with Frisell provides a full reading of tunes like the well-known “Canto de Ossanha,” “Lapinha” changes things up with a trio of Drewes, Duvignau, and Fields. The keyboardist also shows range by occasionally employing the Wurlitzer, as on “Canto de Lemanjá.” For “Tristeza e Solidão,” Duvignau forms another trio with Frisell and Hirshfield. The duo with Carter on “Bluese Preta/Asa Branca” is a real treat for aficionados of the lower end, and the one solo piece by Duvignau, “Berimbau/Consolacão,” a medley of two Baden Powell compositions, is a moving, almost spectral realization of the melodies.

A couple of Duvignau’s compositions in Baden Powell’s style round out the collection of tunes. “Mata Adentro” is a lovely, spare ballad, and “For Bill & Baden,” another blues piece, brings the proceedings to a gentle but satisfying conclusion.

Released in January, Baden arrived in the middle of the Brazilian summer and is the perfect antidote to winter for those in temperate climates looking forward to sun and warm breezes.


Ken Blanchard said...

Lovely music. As I listened a memory kept tugging at the back of my ear. I finally figured it out. The sax/piano dialogues in this recording are eerily reminiscent of the duet albums featuring Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron. I have at least four of them. The best is the double album Live at Dreher Paris, 1981. If you like the above recording, check out Lacy & Waldron.