By Michael J. West | Published February 2024
Knowing that it’s an homage to the Amazon forest and the rivers of Northern Brazil, it’s no surprise that Y’Y is a pastoral, meditative departure from pianist Amaro Freitas’s hard-driving Brazilian jazz. The surface of this largely solo work is placid, but it’s boiling underneath.
Not far underneath, either. Frietas layers himself on piano (some of it prepared) on the second track, “Uiara (Encantada da Água)–Vida e cura,” and nearly every layer is percussive and roiling. That the sum is a mesmerism shows Freitas’s magic. Ditto “Dança dos Martelos,” where Freitas augments the piano with percussion instruments (although some of these are, again, prepared piano); all of it gets whipped into a frenzy, imitating a fierce thunderstorm, but never does lose its sense of pacific introspection.
The last four of Y’Y’s nine tunes feature guests who, in most cases, only heighten the meditations. Shabaka Hutchings’ breathy flute playing softens Freitas’s strident left-hand strikes on the title track; the roles reverse later, when Freitas’ wordless background vocals cool some of Hutchings’ fire. On the other hand, there’s no fire at all in Jeff Parker’s dulcet electric guitar or Brandee Younger’s delicate harp: They seem to merge with the acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes on “Mar de Cirandeiras” and “Gloriosa,” respectively, each becoming one more soothing, thoughtful voice. (There’s also a gauzy bed of synths sitting low in the background on most tracks, maintaining an undercurrent of calm across the album.) Bassist Aniel Someillan and drummer Hamid Drake join Frietas and Hutchings on the concluding “Encantados,” the album’s one real upbeat jam. Rather than a digression, however, it serves as an urgent summation of the album: a reminder that we’re in danger of losing the spiritual havens being celebrated on Y’Y.