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Hamilton de Holanda: Samba de Chico

Album Notes

Released by the excellent Biscoito Fino label in 2016, Samba de Chico is a tribute to both samba and the music of Chico Buarque by Brazilian mandolin virtuoso Hamilton de Holanda. Buarque is regarded as one of the greatest Brazilian songwriters of all time rather than exclusively a samba composer, but he is also indisputably a master of the genre. Supported by Thiago da Serrinha on percussion and either Guto Wirtti or André Vasconcellos on double bass, Holanda tackles 15 Buarque samba standards with accustomed brilliance. These are by no means easy listening note-by-note versions, but more akin to full-steam jazz rearrangements. Holanda's command of the instrument is astounding, and experiencing him live or on film is awe-inspiring. Listening to 50 minutes of nonstop blazing runs and trills, however, can slide from dazzling to dizzying. Of course, Holanda is aware of this fact, which is why he attempts to change the pace by including four vocal selections. Two of these, curiously, feature elegant Spanish singer Sílvia Pérez Cruz rather than any of the seemingly hundreds of marvelous female singers Brazil has to offer. Her versions of "Atrás da Porta" and "O Meu Amor" are unimpeachable, but no match for the ridiculously high standards set by the likes of Elis Regina or Elba Ramalho. The other two, "Vai Trabalhar Vagabundo" and "A Volta do Malandro," are taken care of by none other than Buarque himself, with his customary nonchalance. Holanda also features a composition of his own, "Samba de Chico," which feels right at home in the company of so many sterling peers. As samba is celebrating its first centenary in 2016-2017, many similar projects are expected. Samba de Chico works best as an instrumental samba album rather than a Chico Buarque tribute album, simply because it only focuses on one aspect of his musical output and -- let's face it -- Buarque's songs without his amazing lyrics will always feel slightly diminished. Fans of mandolin music, on the other hand, will find Hamilton de Holanda's entry impossible to beat. Samba de Chico won the Best Instrumental Album category at the 2016 Latin Grammy Awards. ~ Mariano Prunes


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