Jazz CD Reviews

Felipe Salles – Departure – Tapestry Records

Brazilian reed player delivers serious bop.

Published on October 24, 2013

Felipe Salles – Departure – Tapestry Records 76020-2, 67:36 [10/21/2012] ****1/2:

(Felipe Salles – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, bass clarinet; Randy Brecker – trumpet; Nando Michelin – piano; Keala Kaumeheiwa – bass; Bertram Lehmann – drums, percussion; Laura Arpiainen – violin)

Felipe Salles has expanded the genre of Brazilian jazz. Raised in Sao Paolo, he played with several bands including Octeto De Musica Brasileira, Sampa Crew, Savoy Quartet, Zerro Santos Big Band, Banda Farinha Seca, Zydeco Band and the Axel Fisch Group. In 1995 he moved to New York, earning a master’s degree from The New England Conservatory in Boston and a doctorate from The Manhattan School in NYC. Salles developed his compositional and arrangement potential and his works have been performed by The Metropole Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic Viola Ensemble, and Westchester Jazz Orchestra, among many others. Additionally he has recorded with his own quintet, releasing several albums. Salles has embraced elements of bop jazz, modern classical, Brazilian and a variety of world music.

Departure, the fifth release by Salles as bandleader is prominent modern bop. Backed by an excellent, international ensemble (Nando Michelin/piano, Kealo Kaumeheiwa/bass, Bertram Lehmann/drums, Laura Arpiainen/violin), nine original compositions are rendered in crisp musical cohesion. The opening title cut initiates with a driving rhythm, built with Salles’ flutes and bass clarinet featuring percussive touches by Nando Michelin. Both Salles (on tenor) and guest trumpeter Randy Brecker execute colorful solos that cascade above the latin-tinged tempo. Brecker proves why he is so highly regarded as a horn player. Salles is a logical complement to the sharp trumpet with his deep tonal shading. A second bop number, “Seagull’s Island” has a driving syncopated tempo, anchored by Michelin’s cadence. Keala Kaumeheiwa shows some dexterity on his bass riffs, and Lehmann’s timing is impeccable. Salles’ is very expressive on soprano and the vibe approximates the hard bop era of improvisation.

Salles extends beyond the bop horizon on several tracks. “Bela’s Reflection” explores modern classicism with a swaying, middle-eastern, avant-garde vibe. Michelin’s piano is atmospheric, and Salles’ shrill soprano is intriguing. In a similar resonance, “Schoenberg’s Error” balances classical and jazz time nuances. All of the inherent moodiness is captured with rhythmic potency. Taking on another variation, “Maracatu D’Orleans” emerges from a New Orleans style with accelerated tempo meters as Salles (tenor) and Brecker (in possibly his finest work on the album) play in harmony and solo with unbridled enthusiasm. At the core of the music is a steady rhythm section.

Salles’ compositions are unique and challenging. On “B’s Blues”, there are complex time signatures (at times like “Take Five”) and compelling transitions that are permeated by jazzy shadings. The band dynamics are prominent on “Natural Selection” as Salles and Brecker play in unison/harmonic intro. Salles takes over on tenor lead with the band in steady lockstep. Brecker follows with a mellow run on trumpet and Michelin contributes a Brazilian-inspired solo. The final part has trumpet and sax playing together with controlled intensity. In a change of pace, “Adagio Triste” demonstrates a pastoral elegance accented by Salles on flute and Laura Arpiainen on violin.

Departure is a bona fide expression of jazz expression.  

TrackList: Departure; Seagull’s Island; Bela’s Reflection; Maracatu D’Orleans; Awaiting; B’s Blues; Schoenburg’s Error; Adagio Triste; Natural Selection

—Robbie Gerson




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