Personnel: Rodrigo Lima (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, charango, whistle, piano, keyboards, triangle); Zé Eduardo Nazario (vocals, drums, tabla, caxixi, percussion); Ithamara Koorax, Aline Morena (vocals); Luis Barcelos (bandolim, cavaquinho); Carol Panesi (violin, trumpet, flugelhorn, keyboards); Carol Ma, Gene Back (violin); Kerrick Sasaki (viola); Itibere Zwarg (cello, electric bass); Alice Hamlet (cello); Hubert Laws (flute, alto flute); Mariana Zwarg (flute, piccolo, tenor saxophone); Sofia Ceccato (flute); Hugo Fattoruso (accordion, piano, electric piano, harpsichord, synthesizer); Hermeto Pascoal (melodica, piano); Anat Cohen (clarinet, tenor saxophone); Janaina Botelho Perotto (oboe); Débora Nascimento (bassoon); Ajurina Zwarg (soprano saxophone, drums); Raul de Souza (trombone); Lulu Martin (electric piano); Mike Mainieri (vibraphone); Frank Herzberg (acoustic bass, arco bass); Sergio Barroso (acoustic bass); Jamil Joanes (electric bass); Cesar Machado, Joao Palma (drums); Laudir DeOliveira (congas, cuica, percussion); Arnaldo DeSouteiro (percussion, bells); Sammy Figueroa (percussion).
Audio Mixers: Victor França; Arnaldo DeSouteiro.
Liner Note Author: Geraldo Carneiro.
Photographers: Celso Brando; Patricia Balaban; Daniel Azoulay; Andrea Nestrea; Arnaldo DeSouteiro.
Arrangers: Don Sebesky; Itibere Zwarg; Rodrigo Lima; Arnaldo DeSouteiro.
Saga is the auspicious double-disc jazz debut from virtuoso Brazilian guitarist, composer, and arranger Rodrigo Lima. His musical heritage extends from Laurindo Almeida, Baden Powell, and Luiz Bonfa to Jim Hall, Pat Martino, and Pat Metheny. Gorgeously produced by Arnaldo DeSouteiro and recorded in Brazil, New York, and Los Angeles, the set features a killer studio band -- keyboardist Hugo Fattoruso and trombonist Raul De Souza, bassist Jamil Joanes and drummer Ze Eduardo Nazario -- appended by an international all-star cast: Hermeto Pascoal, Hubert Laws, Anat Cohen, Mike Mainieri, Ithamara Koorax, Frank Herzberg, Sammy Figueroa, Aline Morena, and Don Sebesky, for starters. The production aesthetic is informed by Creed Taylor's iconic CTI label, whose pristine sonic and advanced musical blueprint employed a large stable of musicians and arrangers (some of whom appear here) and melded genres so seamlessly and attractively, it made jazz accessible to almost any listener. Lima and DeSouteiro use CTI as a guiding principle: charts, solos and ensemble play are colorful and imaginative, played tight and right. Lima's tunes employ Latin grooves and Brazilian sounds and rhythms as they integrate seamlessly with funk, pop and even classical crossover in elegant, sophisticated arrangments that extend the reach of jazz itself. Lima's innovative playing is rivaled only by his wide-angle compositional and arranging skills. "Cancao Praieira," a jazz samba, finds Lima's classical guitar hovering above Fattoruso's Fender Rhodes; both complement a rich, emotive solo from De Souza. "Novos Cariocas - Anat's Song" is a smoking jazz choro-cum-samba with the dedicatee as guest soloist. "A La Vuelta" is inspired by Andean folk tradition. Lima plays charango, acoustic, and electric guitars, and Fattoruso is on accordion and piano. "Brasileirao" is where baiao meets bop. Fleet single-string guitar playing drives solos from electric and arco basses; Fattoruso kills it on harpsichord. Sebesky arranged "Flying Waltz," and Laws delivers a poignant flute solo. Lima's classical guitar and Fattoruso's Rhodes are framed by upright bass and chamber strings. Sebesky's lush chart employs colorful harmonics and textures subtly yet provocatively -- more evidence that he is one of jazz's greatest arrangers. Things get funky on "OPA," which is all groove all the time, while "Anima 2" weds knotty electric fusion to Yoruban percussion. Pascoal's "Palhina Do Vinho" begins as an airy vocal samba but moves through funk and fusion -- and he contributes a blazing melodica solo. Disc two contains some intimate tunes: a solo guitar piece, "A Velha Sozinha," duets with Fattoruso ("Tango") and Pascoal ("Nosso Borogodo Coio"), and an excellent vocal showcase in "Samba Da Mistura." Its highlight is "Brahms," a 20-minute jam based on the composer's third symphony (CTI was also known to funk up the classical canon a bit). Lima's playing is jaw-dropping in phrasing, fluidity, and eloquence; he breezes through postbop, flamenco, and classical. Solos by Fattoruso, De Souza, and Maineri make it a contemporary jazz classic. Lima's taste and maestro-like abilities, combined with DeSouteiro's veteran experience, puts Saga in a class by itself. This is an expansive yet utterly welcoming offering that sounds more adventurous with repeated listening. It is holistic in conception and visionary in articulation. ~ Thom Jurek