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Ed Motta: AOR

Album Notes

Brazilian producer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, translator, and fanatical record collector, Ed Motta has long been a musical renaissance man; a forward-thinking standard bearer to music fans in his own country, as well as a club, radio and festival presence in Europe and Japan; he's less well known on the American side of the Atlantic. While previous offerings -- notably Poptical, Dwitza, and Aystelum -- have brought his love for the crossover jazz, rock, and R&B of the late 1970s into MPB, and he has never assembled them so completely as he does here. As a genre/radio format, "AOR" refers to "album-oriented rock." For Motta it has always been more complex, deeper, and wider; it was American music, regardless of popular genre, that displayed a specific standard in writing, playing, and production. Though this adheres closely to Steely Dan's Becker and Fagen, one can also hear Maurice White, Rene & Angela, Gino Vannelli, and Jay Graydon in both charts and mix. He enlisted a cast of Brazil's finest studio players to assist him in this project's realization. Guitars, horns, crisp drums, organic hand percussion, elegant basslines, Rhodes piano, clavinet, Moog, etc., all capture the vibe perfectly. But the writing and singing are pure Motta: tender, sensual, soulful, and airy, his voice carries a remarkable range that adorns gorgeous melodies and poetic lyrics. Virtually any song here could have been a single. The breezy opener "Playthings of Love," with graceful interplay between his Rhodes, electric guitar, bass, and a ticking snare, create a space for the horns to enter subtly on the second verse. By then the listener is completely enveloped in the grooving hook. "Simple Guy" is a summery love song with a brilliant horn chart that dialogues -- line for line -- with his vocal. "Dondi" features a guest appearance by legendary American session guitarist David T. Walker (of Innervisions, Let's Get It On, and dozens of others). His colorful chord voicings and lead fills enhance layers of flutes, horn, and crystalline Rhodes, while his lyrical solo shines through. "Smile," with Incognito's "Bluey" Maunick on guitar, contains a funky bassline as irresistible as the tune's melody. The jazz cadence in "Dried Flowers," illustrated by Wurlitzer, ARP strings, vibes, fat brass, and reeds, is underscored by Sergio Melo's breakbeats binding the tune forever to R&B. The set's most musically ambitious moment is "Farmer's Wife," which artfully melds sophisticated pop, progressive rock, and jazz. The only track in Portuguese (on the American English version) is "Mais Do Que Ei Sei," co-written with Dudu Falçao. It is a sinuous rock tune that adds considerable contrast and dimension to what's already here. For Motta, AOR is not mere nostalgia for an era, but a musical standard he aspired to. He not only accomplished it but left his own mark as well. ~ Thom Jurek


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