By Carlo Wolff | Published August 2016
Composer-pianist Dan Costa fuses classical structure, American jazz and Brazilian melody in this entrancing homage to Brazil.
Recorded in Rio de Janeiro with a supple core band and guests cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, vocalist Leila Pinheiro, baritone saxophonist Teco Cardoso and percussionist Marcos Suzano, Suite Três Rios conjures atmospheres from the rainforest (“Balão”) to the urbane, on “Modinha,” a Cardoso showcase that feels like a chanson. Costa’s melodic sensibility shines throughout. So does his piano, alternately percussive and pearly.
Framed by “Alba,” a dappled tune spotlighting Costa’s brooding chords and Morelenbaum’s plangent cello, and “Aria,” the upbeat, ascending finale, the seven-track album builds beautifully.
While this Suite is internally cohesive, it’s also diverse, serving up a variety of textures and unusual voicings, like the blend of Vittor Santos’s trombone and the darting saxophone of Marcelo Martins on “Samba.”
The smoky vocal of Pinheiro on “Bossa Nova” plays well against Costa’s rubato piano and Santos’ boozy, querulous trombone. Pinheiro takes the tune out with panache, stretching her world-weary contralto high until Costa’s signoff. “Bossa Nova” is the album’s torch song.
Each tune has its strengths, with some more adventurous than others. The dense and compact “Maracatu” is a standout. It begins with Alberto Continentino’s bass, adding a kind of second-line rhythm before Costa comes in with a martial and jaunty riff. One of the album’s more abstract tunes, it’s rhythmically tricky yet at the same time disciplined, evoking both a Latin American street festival and a baroque soirée
. Martins’ alto and Silveira’s guitar star on “Aria,” taking out this sensual album on a bright, happy note. Costa, too, has his say here, his right hand dancing behind Martins' until all come together, peacocks on a Rio beach. A very lovely track, particularly the fade.
Born in London to a Portuguese father and an Italian mother, the thoroughly cosmopolitan, classically trained Costa has delivered a finely crafted album.
Suite Três Rios: Alba; Chorinho; Samba; Bossa Nova; Balão; Maracatu; Modinha. (34:04)
Personnel: Rafael Barata, drums, pandeiro; Teco Cardoso, baritone sax; Alberto Continentino, bass; Dan Costa, piano; Marcelo Martins, alto and tenor sax; Jaques Morelenbaum, cello; Leila Pinheiro, vocals; Vittor Santos, trombone; Ricardo Silveira, guitar; Marcos Suzano, percussion.