John Patitucci

Irmão De Fé
(Newvelle)

Lester Young believed it was important for an instrumentalist to know the lyrics to a tune in order to create the right mood when playing it. But what about the listener’s responsibility? Though there are no vocals on John Patitucci’s Brazilian-themed Irmão De Fé, the LP’s sleeve notes (by co-producer Elan Mehler) include translations of the lyrics to two of the nine songs, to ensure that the listener has a deeper sense of what the players are trying to express.

Focussing on the song, as opposed to the improvisational possibilities it might present, often leads to bland jazz—but not here. Instead, by emphasizing the emotional content of the material, Patitucci and company work out a balance between interpretation and improvisation that does the songs justice while still leaving plenty of room to play.

It helps that Patitucci, guitarist Yotam Silberstein and percussionist Rogério Boccato have chops to spare. “Desvairada” finds Patitucci’s double bass and Silberstein’s guitar skittering effortlessly through unison lines in a brisk 6/8, while “Nilopolitano” pivots deftly between the boppish 16ths of the melody and the trio’s funky jamming. But their virtuosity isn’t all flash, as one of the album’s most technically impressive performances, “Olha Maria,” makes its point through a simple arco statement of the melody.

Audiophiles will thrill at the vividness of the analog sound here, especially the rich depth of Patitucci’s six-string bass on “Sinhá.” But Newvelle’s devotion to the LP does have one drawback: It’s hard to imagine anyone listening to this music and not wishing there was room for more.