By Kira Grunenberg | Published January 2019
Those without knowledge of traditional Brazilian lullabies might fear a disadvantage sitting down with The Lullaby Project, not only in recognizing musical inspirations, but in one’s ability to fully appreciate Felipe Salles and his 18-piece ensemble’s intended thematic direction. Since the eight tracks here feature names that won’t necessarily point anyone toward immediate conclusions, listeners are free to focus on players’ techniques, timbre and arrangements to explain the emotional aim of each track.
“Lullaby #2” begins with a minimal motif—one reminiscent of Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero”—that’s shared across piano, cymbals and vibraphone. The theme relies almost entirely on rhythmic punctuation, repetition and subtly fluctuating dynamics to build momentum and anticipation. Meanwhile, “Lullaby #5” starts with a brass-aggressive ascending motif before receding to a calmer, but still brisk, section built on hi-hat, low-register piano and piercing melodica. As the album shifts toward three through-composed tango-style pieces, that same tone-intense brass takes on a support role, resulting in a reserved noir-style theme on “Astor Square.”
The Lullaby Project simultaneously is dense and accessible, and warrants replays to take in Salles’ cultural observations, compositional counterpoint and the emotional trajectories.
The Lullaby Project: Lullaby #1; Lullaby #2; Lullaby #3; Lullaby #4; Lullaby #5; Odd Tango; Astor Square: Carla’s Tango. (73:28)
Personnel: Felipe Salles, soprano saxophone; Richard Garcia, Jonathan Ball, alto saxophone, flute; Mike Caudill, tenor, soprano saxophone, clarinet; Jacob Shulman, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Tyler Burchfield, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Jeff Holmes, Yuta Yamaguchi, Eric Smith, Doug Olsen, trumpet; Joel Yennior, Clayton DeWalt, Randy Pingrey, trombone; Angel Subero, bass trombone; Nando Michelin, piano, melodica; Kevin Grudecki, guitar; Ryan Fedak, vibraphone; Keala Kaumeheiwa, bass; Bertram Lehmann, drums.