Benji Kaplan Presents: Uai Sô

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Benji Kaplan: Uai Sô

The glorious albeit devilishly complex writing and the spirited and eloquently ornamented playing by Benji Kaplan and the wonderful members of the ensemble on Uai Sô does serve Brasilian music in general and the music of Guinga in particular, upon whose melodic and harmonic ideas it appears to be modelled, uncommonly well. The programme is framed by “Amargura e Doçura” and “Fuga de Alcatraz (voice and guitar version)”, two among the most ambitious repertoire that Benji Kaplan has endevoured to put down on record. In fact I would be really interested to see what Kaplan comes up with next for it is hard to imagine how anyone – certainly not a son of the soil, so to speak – could top that.

Benji Kaplan’s “Amargura e Doçura” is truly special, not the least because of its lyrics by Rita Figueiredo (Kaplan’s wife). Its melodic and harmonic character possesses immense energy requiring virtuosic gestures both difficult and intricate from every performer and deeply emotional delivery of the lyric by Benji Kaplan, whose performance infectiously realises both great virtuosity and credible emotion and lyricism to the generously proportioned melody. At the bottom end of the programme is the beautifully spare version of “Fuga de Alcatraz (voice and guitar version)” – spare only because Benji Kaplan appears alone bathed in what can only be described as moonlight to seeming say “God-speed…” and wish him away on his solo flight.

Both pieces are redolent in Kaplan’s idiosyncratic and exploratory style, thematically challenging and boldly expressive. We can understand readily enough why Guinga found so much to admire in this composer’s music. And for good measure Benji Kaplan returns the favour with the utter perfection not only of these two pieces but the entire repertoire of twelve pieces as well – enlivening, at every turn, Guinga’s own distinctive style with idiomatic expressions by Kaplan that pay him rich tribute. Also within this powerful programme are players of exceptional individual skill who forsake singular voices here in order to submit to the collective spirit of the works themselves. This is actually a bigger deal than could ever be imagined or expressed in a five-hundred-or-so (word) review.

At any rate, the total lack of vanity in these performances and the relaxed grace and respect with which each and every member of this ensemble treats their fearless leader, Benji Kaplan, is a beacon of light from a generation that doesn’t always acknowledge the great ancestors who went before them, much less one of their own whose genius they must surely be envious of.

1: “Amargura e Doçura”: Ben Kono: conductor; Benji Kaplan: nylon-string acoustic guitar and vocals; Jonathan Challoner: 1st trumpet; Alex Nguyen: 2nd trumpet; Matthew McDonald: 1st trombone; Elizabeth PW: 2nd trombone; Ben Stapp: tuba; Anne Drummond: 1st and 3rd flute; Dominique Gagne: 2nd flute and 4th flute; Ben Goldberg: bass clarinet; Remy Leboeuf: 2nd bass clarinet; Kyra Sims: 1st and 3rd French horn; Elizabeth Harraman: 2nd French horn; Sam Sadigursky: tenor saxophone; 2: “Uai Sô”: Mauricio Zottarelli: drums; Vitor Gonçalves: accordion; Itai Kriss: 1st flute; Anne Drummond: 2nd flute; Remy Leboeuf: bass clarinet; Rob Wilkerson: 1st clarinet; Janelle Reichmann: 2nd clarinet; 3: “Lágrimas Na Areia”: Ben Kono: conductor; Benji Kaplan: nylon-string acoustic guitar and vocals; Jonathan Challoner: 1st trumpet; Ben Stapp: tuba; Anne Drummond: 1st flute; Dominique Gagne: 2nd flute; Elizabeth Harraman: French horn; Klaus Mueller: keyboard, sound library and percussion instruments; 4: “Chorando em Oração”: Benji Kaplan: nylon-string acoustic guitar; Mauricio Zottarelli: drums; Itaiguara Brandão: electric bass; Klaus Mueller: piano; Dominique Gagne: flute; 5: “Rabiscando (Para Guinga)”: Benji Kaplan: nylon-string acoustic guitar and vocals; Hadar Noiberg: 1st flute; Anne Drummond: 2nd flute; Marc Phaneuf: 1st clarinet; Peter Hess: 2nd clarinet; Remy Leboeuf: bass clarinet; Christiana Liberis: 1st violin; Jon Weber: 2nd violin; Carrie Frey: viola; Maria Jeffers: cello; 6: “Ceú Aberto” Benji Kaplan: nylon-string acoustic guitar and vocals; Hadar Noiberg: 1st flute; Anne Drummond: 2nd flute; Marc Phaneuf: 1st clarinet; Peter Hess: 2nd clarinet; Remy Leboeuf: bass clarinet; Christiana Liberis: 1st violin; Delaney Stockli: 2nd violin; Leonor Falcon: viola; Maria Jeffers: cello; 7: “Fuga de Alcatraz” (Instrumental version); Benji Kaplan: nylon-string acoustic guitar; Jonathan Challoner: 1st trumpet; Alex Nguyen: 2nd trumpet; Matthew McDonald; trombone; Shelley Huang: bassoon; Remy Leboeuf: oboe; Ben Kono: 1st bass clarinet; Ben Goldberg: 2nd bass clarinet; Vitor Gonçalves: accordion; 8: “Sempre Mudando”: Benji Kaplan: nylon-string acoustic guitar; Jonathan Challoner: 1st trumpet; Alex Nguyen: 2nd trumpet; Matthew McDonald: 1st trombone; Elizabeth PW: 2nd trombone; Ben Stapp: tuba; Anne Drummond: 1st and 3rd flute; Dominique Gagne: 2nd flute and 4th flute; Ben Goldberg: bass clarinet; Remy Leboeuf: 2nd bass clarinet; Sam Sadigursky: tenor saxophone; 9: “A Gente se Manifesta”: Benji Kaplan: vocals; Itai Kriss: 1st flute; Anne Drummond: 2nd flute; Remy Leboeuf: bass clarinet; Rob Wilkerson: 1st clarinet; Janelle Reichmann: 2nd clarinet; Christiana Liberis: 1st violin; Jon Weber: 2nd violin; Carrie Frey: viola; Maria Jeffers: cello; 10: “Valsa da Metrópole”: Benji Kaplan: vocals; Jonathan Challoner: 1st trumpet; Alex Nguyen: 2nd trumpet; Matthew McDonald: trombone; Ben Stapp: tuba; Anne Drummond: 1st and 3rd flute; Dominique Gagne: 2nd flute and 4th flute; Ben Goldberg: 1st clarinet; Ben Kono: 2nd clarinet; Remy Leboeuf: bass clarinet; Sam Sadigursky: tenor saxophone; Kyra Sims: 1st and 3rd French horn; Elizabeth Harraman: 2nd French horn; 11: “Fuga de Alcatraz (voice and guitar version)”: Benji Kaplan: nylon-string acoustic guitar and vocals; 12: “Óculos cor de Rosa”: Benji Kaplan: vocals; Jess Schmitz: 1st flute; Ben Kono: 2nd flute; Mike McGinnis: 1st clarinet; Rob Wilkerson: 2nd clarinet; John Ellis: bass clarinet; Sara Caswell: 1st violin; Joyce Hammann: 2nd violin; Lois Martin: viola; Jody Redhage Ferber: cello; Recording engineers: Vinicius Castro, Max Ross, Joe Marciano, Will Neal, Thiago Miojo, John Muller; Mixing engineer: Vinicius Castro; Mastering engineer: UE Nastasi

Released: 2016
Label: Tratore
Runtime: 36:58

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