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Nilson Matta & Roni Ben-Hur @ The Kitano (NYC) on June 17-18

SOURCE: Published:
In Support & Celebration of Their New Recording On Motéma Music—MOJAVE

Nilson Matta & Roni Ben-Hur
Featuring Victor Lewis & Café!

The Kitano is located at 66 Park Ave., NYC, 212 885 7000

“An exceptional collaboration that has produced some exceptional music." —Straight No Chaser

“The primary importance of Mojave is its global, yet accessible appeal. Anyone with an interest in Brazilian jazz music will find Mojave scintillatingly addictive" —Inside World Music

Uniting their mutual love for both jazz and Brazilian music, two acclaimed stylists, the guitarist Roni Ben-Hur and the bassist Nilson Matta, have found common ground on Mojave, their first recorded collaboration. With expert support from the long celebrated drummer Victor Lewis and Brazilian percussionist Café, Ben-Hur and Matta have conjured up a project that celebrates the best of both worlds. Mojave, entrances with its Brazilian sensibilities as successfully as it swings.

Blending original tunes from all four players with compositions from such Brazilian masters as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Baden Powell and Pixinguinha—in addition to a samba-infused version of Burt Bacharach's classic, “The Look of Love."—Ben-Hur and Matta honor the song craft that makes Brazilian music so beloved, while also acknowledging its pervasive influence. While the Brazilian born Matta comes to the music of his country with the natural ease one might expect, Ben-Hur, born in Israel, impresses with the idiomatic comfort he's acquired. “Roni loves the music," says Matta of his musical partner, “and although he's not Brazilian, he plays the music so well. But this project was never intended to be pure Brazilian; it's a mixture of bebop and samba: a perfect combination. With an American musician with Israeli roots, one native-born American, and two Brazilian players, it became more international in flavor."

Mojave provides plenty of room for the co-leaders to exhibit their impressive instrumental skills. Ben-Hur and Matta are virtuosos thoroughly entrenched in the bebop idiom, yet both men are just as obviously in thrall to the rhythms and sophisticated melodic and harmonic shapes of classic Brazilian music. The team cover a wide spectrum, from three songs by Pixinguinha, the iconic master of the pre-Bossa Nova genre, choro, whose influence was strongest in the 1920s and 30's, to emblematic songs by guitarist and composer Baden Powell (represented here by his own “Samba do Veloso" as well as Matta's original tribute, “Baden") and Antonio Carlos Jobim, the most celebrated Brazilian popular composer of the 20th century. That each of the players contributes original material as well strengthens the collaborative bond that permeates the album as a whole.

If the overall tone of the album is touched by a glowing lyrical quality that radiates from Ben- Hur and Matta's deep connection to the music and each other as players, their prodigious chops are never given short shrift. Hear them romp through “Samba do Veloso," “Canal Street" and the title track, and then caress the ballads, “Carinhoso," “Eretz" and the gorgeous guitar-bass duet, “Rosa" with equal agility and sensitivity.

The co-leaders began their collaboration in 2009 playing duets in the performance lounge at New Jersey's Englewood Hospital, home to the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund, which provides care for jazz and blues musicians in need. Extensive touring followed and plans were soon made for recording. It was only fitting when Matta and Ben-Hur decided to make Mojave the third CD in Motema's Jazz Therapy Series (twenty percent of sales will be allocated to the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund of the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, “The desire to make an album together was natural," Ben-Hur says, “It was a great opportunity to play music that I had loved all my life with someone I consider an icon of the music. “ The addition of Lewis and Café, long admired by Ben-Hur and Matta, brought a cherished project to fruition.


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