I started off 2020 expecting a break from the multitude of Latin jazz releases–specifically tango and Brazilian jazz–that dominated the music scene in 2019. I love this music, but after a while it all starts to blend together, especially when it’s merely some jazz performer who wants to take a crack at one of these genres without doing the homework. (That means living a lifetime marinating in this music.) If I do listen to new Latin jazz releases, and if I spend time reviewing them, they have to be special. They have to be authentic. They have to approach their compositions with invention, creativity and something deep inside that no one else could replicate. They just can’t play the notes. Nothing fits this description better than Albare Plays Jobim.
Albare, a guitarist who comes from the magical land of the one-named people, was born in Morocco and learned his craft in Israel and France. Albare has been consumed with Brazilian jazz since he was a young man, when he first heard the lush Brazilian jazz of Antonio Carlos Jobim in the film Orpheus Negro. Albare Plays Jobim is, of course, a tribute to Jobim. The reason it caught my attention is simple–this is one of the most gorgeous Brazilian recordings I’ve heard. Yes, it’s lush and romantic. It’s supposed to be lush and romantic. But Albare has gone big here–a big string orchestra backing a classic trio (pianist Joe Chindamo, who also conducts the orchestra, drummer Antonio Sanchez and bassist Ricky Rodriquez).
The focus of Albare Plays Jobim is Albare’s guitar. It’s simple, direct and eloquent. Albare isn’t quite minimalist in his approach, but he will surprise you with his ability to put so much emotion into just a few notes. His guitar is sexy, languid and confident, just like that certain girl from Ipanema. It sounds like an oversimplification but if you want to hear the essence of Brazilian jazz, listen to this. (Probably after listening to Getz/Gilberto, of course.)
It’s difficult for me to proclaim that I will review no more Brazilian jazz in 2020 after hearing something as strikingly beautiful as Albare Plays Jobim. Never say never, as they say. Albare spent most of his life in love with this music, and it shows. I’m glad I made an exception for this compelling release.