The fact that the English-speaking world knows little or nothing about Brasil and its artists is borne out by this remarkable recording by the San-São Trio which comprises composer and flutist Léa Freire, composer, pedagogue and pianist Amilton Godoy and the inimitable woodwind virtuoso Harvey Wainapel, who appears to be the one to put it all together. Miss Freire and Mr Godoy are icons in Brasil. The pianist is revered and has been so worshipped by the cognoscenti since his rise to eminence in the early 1960’s. Miss Freire may have been a neophyte for some time, but is now musically virtually his equal. Indeed only her Brasilian diffidence allows her to shy away from the limelight. In Brasil, however, they are celebrated as few musicians are by everyone from Egberto Gismonti and Hermeto Pascoal to João Bosco and Ivan Lins.
Their performances as a duo have been documented for years and on stage as well as on record. But the disc, Novos Caminhos is the premiere appearance as San-São Trio, with Mr Wainapel. The musical magic begins as if with a puff of smoke right from the first notes, a beguiling figure, softly sung by Miss Freire and Mr Godoy who toss contrapuntal melodic strains between them for a while until joined in by the burnished, woody sound of Mr Wainapel’s clarinet. From then on you will be mesmerised by the gorgeous music played with rhapsodic wonder by the three masters of their instruments. Mr Godoy is now on an you-can’t-touch-me pinnacle and his performance here proves that he is at the zenith of his art. His playing is softly luminous whether he is playing his own work – such as “O Batraquio” or works composed by Miss Freire – such as “Mamulengo” where the rapt intensity of his pianism, awash with colour, goes like a gentle wind, blown with subtle contrasts in tone.
Miss Freire’s playing is at once sombre and spiritual. At times a playfulness prevails in the harmonies she creates as the flute lines dance seemingly bashfully around Mr Wainapel’s winds. Her tone is muscular and earthy, but also at times has a delicious un-portentous lightness of touch which is broadcast in the quiet beauty of “Novos Caminhos”. Mr Wainapel thrives in this setting and comes alive with a performance of delicate and finely imagined beauty. Whether playing clarinet, or soprano and alto saxophones, Mr Wainapel negotiates the songs with nuanced fluidity, often eliciting spine-tingling shadings of colour as the music progresses. Together these three musicians parlay with the familiarity of old friends, yet their playing always retains that sense of gracious etiquette associated with noble associations in Brasilian academies for which eloquent Brasilian music was intended.
Nothing is forced or exaggerated, or overly mannered; tempos, soli, ensemble and balance – all seem intuitively and effortlessly right. The flute sound is lucid, while the piano and woodwinds add warmth and continuo. These are, in sum, sincere and poised accounts, a fitting tribute to the spirit of saudade and alegria so entrenched in the Brasilian ethos.
Track list – 1: Sem dó Nem Piedade; 2: Mamulengo; 3: O Batraquio; 4: Samba do Árvore; 5: Novos Caminhos; 6: Teste de Som; 7: Deixa Estar; 8: Risco; 9: Tudo Bem; 10: Fé; 11: Samba do Guigui
Personnel – Léa Freire: flute, G flute and piano (7, 10); Amilton Godoy: piano; Harvey Wainapel: clarinet, soprano saxophone and alto saxophone
Released – 2019
Label – Maritaca Discos (M1052)
Runtime – 59:21