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About Campo Belo
Ever since the passion and beauty of Bossa Nova first reached the ears of North American listeners more than half a century ago, jazz artists and their Brazilian counterparts have been engaged in a rich musical conversation. Guitarist/composer Anthony Wilson adds his voice to that exchange with Campo Belo, his eighth CD as a leader, on which he enlists the talents of three brilliant, multifaceted instrumentalists from the vibrant musical scenes of Rio and Sao Paulo.
Campo Belo is not your typical, high-concept 'Brazilian Project,' however; once consumed by the desire to explore the music he'd encountered in Brazil, Wilson set out not to export himself into that situation but to import the country's sounds and emotions into his own work. Rather than ticking off a checklist of exotic rhythms, he strove to capture a more intangible feeling and filter it through his own individual voice.
I wanted to write songs that would really come to life being played by Brazilian musicians," Wilson explains, without setting out to write a Bossa Nova song or a Samba song or a Choro song."
That approach is evident from the title track, named for the neighborhood in which the album was recorded, which possesses a decidedly American twang. That feeling is even more pronounced on 'Elyria,' a Nashville shuffle that Wilson plays with a country/bluegrass fingerpicking style.
More direct Brazilian influences can be heard in the flowing Bossa 'March To March' and on 'Valsacatu,' a hybrid of maracatu rhythm and waltz time. Both 'Patrimonio' and 'Etna' are impressionistic portraits of little-known European wine regions, reflecting another of Wilson's passions, while the science fiction-titled 'Transitron' raises the blood pressure to close the album with an edgier feel.
Throughout, the influences of Brazil permeate the music but don't seize hold of it, making it an impression of another culture. The impact is something far more intangible; an airiness, an inflection, a sense of space that suggest their origins obliquely.
Wilson's first direct encounter with Brazilian music in the flesh rather than on record came during a 2005 tour with singer/pianist Diana Krall, with whom he's been performing for nearly a decade. It was through that experience that Wilson met guitarist Chico Pinheiro, his duo partner on the 2007 album Nova, and who subsequently introduced him to a host of gifted local musicians.
That was the first time I experienced how deep the music and the rhythms are down there," Wilson says of his return visit in late 2005. So I just kept going back. I would return four times a year, four or five weeks at a time, and eventually met the three musicians who ended up on this album."
Pianist Andr Mehmari traverses a range of styles from classical to popular music. The So Paulo State Symphony and several Brazilian chamber ensembles have performed his compositions and arrangements, and he has performed with the likes of Maria Schneider and Ivan Lins. His own work includes a Latin Grammy-nominated quintet CD and a solo record on which he plays all 26 instruments.
Drummer Edu Ribeiro is a longtime member of Chico Pinheiro's band and has also worked with Ivan Lins, Dori Caymmi, Yamand Costa, and Rosa Passos. He has taken the stage at jazz festivals around the world, from Switzerland to Japan to Austria.
Wilson encountered Guto Wirtti performing in two completely separate contexts over the course of two evenings: one night playing electric bass in a forro band, the next playing original music in the vein of Milton Nascimento and Toninho Horta. Wirtti is well versed in traditional Brazilian styles but is also an acolyte of jazz giants Sam Jones and Ray Brown.
I had this trio in mind from the time I met and played with them," Wilson says. I just thought the guys would click."
From that moment, he began compiling songs that he felt would complement their approach to playing, characteristics of which he describes as responsiveness, innocence, and play." As he makes clear, however, these qualities spring not from naivete or lack of ability, but from a respect for melody and direct emotional communication.
Complexity is really favored right now," Wilson says. It's candy for the ear. But down there they play with a responsiveness to what the song is saying, an openness to the music that I find really refreshing. It lends itself to a spontaneous musical encounter."
A more intricate, complex side of Wilson's composing will be heard when 'The 4-Seasons,' his new suite for guitar quartet, is premiered at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in April. Tied to the museum's 'Guitar Heroes' exhibition, the pieceto be performed by Wilson, Pinheiro, Steve Cardenas, and Julian Lageis a showcase for the instruments of John Monteleone, known as 'the dean of American luthiers.'