Only very special collaborations last 30 years, and rarely do they become more exciting and together over the decades. Trio da Paz, however, is one such long-lasting and still lightning band. The team of drummer Eduardo "Duduka" Da Fonseca, guitarist Romero Lubambo and bassist Nilson Matta, all Brasilian jazzmen of New York City, is just as dashing today as when the three first met in 1985.
So 30, their seventh album and ZOHO debut release, wastes no time glancing back. Rather, Trio da Paz celebrates the past as a way to get to what's now and what's next. This is not to imply that the band or 30 denies history. As friends, Duduka, Romero and Nilson are utterly secure in their enduring triangle, and as musicians they tap well-established elements of bedrock Brasilian samba and bossa nova -- the music of Jobim, Gilberto and Bonfá -- as well as bebop and its developments, Wes Montgomery, third stream and even free improvisation for ingredients of their signature sound. Romero's urban gypsy melodies and percussive chording, Nilson's firm yet flexible baselines and Duduka's rhythms -- which, whether surging or simmering, are always energized -- flow fast and inseparably over the course of 30.
Sampa 67 is characteristic: A brisk tune that welcomes the listener to enjoy the musicians' empathic interplay. The composition is slangily named for São Paulo, where Nilson, its composer, was born, and his rubato statement is at the track's center. Hear how Romero and Duduka, in stimulating exchanges, ramp the tempo back up to where it started.
In a similar mood and moving quickly, For Donato is Romero's tribute to bandleader and pianist Joao Donato, a Brazilian master who absorbed Caribbean accents during his stints with Mongo Santamaria, Cal Tjader and Tito Puente, among others, when he lived in the United States during the late '50s and '60s. The tune uses an afoxé rhythm that comes from Bahia, and is closely related to an Afro-Cuban groove.
The pace slows somewhat – Duduka using brushes instead of sticks - for Romero's bossa nova Outono ("Autumn"). Says the guitarist-composer: "With its changing of colors and cooler days after the summer, autumn is really a season for romantic music." And this is really music for romance. Alana is Duduka's piece for his older daughter, now an adult. Her father says Alana's personality is reflected in the song, which changes meter from 15/8 to 6/8 to a doubletimed 4/4 for the bass solo to Duduka's own episode in 15/8. So may we assume Alana is a sparkling and strong woman whose many dimensions fit together gracefully? Complementary yet contrasting, Luisa is for Romero's daughter, currently 17. The guitarist calls her "a beautiful person inside and out, who I love very much!" Although written in ¾, "Luisa" is not phrased as a jazz waltz but instead sways in a way that Duduka identifies as a waltz with a Brasilian lilt.
Brasilian guitar virtuoso Baden Powell (1937 – 2000), obviously a hero to Romero, Nilson and Duduka as an early exemplar of the pan-stylistic approach Trio da Samba favors, wrote Samba Triste which at a breakneck tempo doesn't seem triste at all. Nilson's Águas Brasileiras refers to the Atlantic ocean, which has exerted implacable influence on the Trio's native land. A ballad, the song moves in soft waves; the trio's improvisation opens up the theme's depths and crosscurrents. Nilson recorded this previously, on his 2010 ZOHO album Copacabana.
From left: Duduka Da Fonseca, Romero Lubambo, Nilson Matta.
Photo by Frank Stewart.
Sweeping the Chimney, which Duduka calls "fast, really fast," was inspired by workers attending to Romero's house in New Jersey. "Luisa was three years old when I wrote that," the guitarist mentions, "and she helped me decide some of the notes." Duduka contributed Flying Over Rio, the melody of which came to him in an airplane taking off over Guanabara Bay, giving him a view of the mountains around Rio and Sugar Loaf, their peak. "Wow, it was gorgeous," he remembers – also remembering to credit Paulo Jobim (Tom Jobim's son) with suggesting to him one perfect note that launched the bridge "in a completely different direction."
To conclude, Nilson's LVM/Direto Ao Assunto (the initials of his wife and sons/"to the point") goes in a flash from subtle reflection to searing line. Both of these songs have been recorded before by Duduka and Nilson with pianist Helio Alves: "Flying over Rio" in 2008 on The Brazilian Trio's ZOHO release "Forests", and "LVM/Direto ao Assunto" on that group's album "Constelacao". Nilson introduced the song on the late pianist Don Pullen's album Kele Mou Bana, released in 1991.
That was just one year before Trio da Paz's own recording debut, Brasil from the Inside. Annotating that album, I wrote, "If North Americans hadn't invented jazz, surely Brasilians such as guitarist Romero Lubambo, bassist Nilson Matta and percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca would have." In fact, the members of Trio da Paz have invented jazz that's personally and musically unique. Their music is cool and hot, rooted in Brasilian heritage but cosmopolitan, timely and timeless.
"After 30 years together, we still bring the same energy, emotion and happiness whether we're stepping onstage or into a recording session," says Nilson. "That's the secret to Trio da Paz, what captivates our fans and why we keep making new ones all over the world." Romero agrees: "To play as Trio da Paz is a unique experience because the music always transcends notes, chords, tempos and anything written on sheet music. Naturally, because we've been playing together for 30 years, we know each other so well that we don't need to explain anything. These are qualities that are impossible to teach or articulate in words. They come from the hearts, souls and feelings that we have as individuals and as a group." Duduka adds simply, "When we play, we're very organic and spontaneous. Even to songs we perform often, we like to take a fresh approach. Sometimes one of us does something a little different, and we all realize it's better, so we stick with that. It's like a democracy. We all have ideas and try to do our best." The best of Trio da Paz is very fine. And though journalists used to use "-30-" to indicate the end of a story, 30 whets the appetite for more from a band in its prime. -- Howard Mandel
Produced by: Trio Da Paz. Tracks 4 - 8: Recorded by Kyle Cassel, at Kaleidoscope Sound, New Jersey , On October 27, 2011. Tracks 1, 2, 3, 9, 10: Recorded by Michael Brorby, at Acoustic Recording, Brooklyn, NY, on November 13 & 14, 2014. Mixed by Brian Montgomery in Astoria, New York. Mastered by Katsuhiko Naito at Avatar Studios, New York, NY.