TODD HUNTER: “POSTCARDS FROM BRAZIL” (Volume 2) (self-released)

Like a cool breeze off the Atlantic Ocean, Todd Hunter’s digital release, “Postcards from Brazil, Volume 2” offers a refreshing approach to Brazilian jazz.  Hunter’s finely-tempered piano and his catchy original compositions display a unique mix of styles, which is both relaxing and instantly accessible.  The initial EP of this series was released in 2021, and the present disc collects unissued tracks from the original sessions, new music recorded for this release, and a brand-new vocal duet on an Ivan Lins standard.  The album opens with “Family Tree”, Hunter’s gently pulsating tribute to the many generations of musicians in his family. Giovanna Moraga Clayton’s cello adds tender counterpoint to Hunter’s piano, both in his theme statements and improvised solos. The rhythm section of guitarist Peter Sprague, bassist Andre Vasconcellos, and drummer Teo Lima works together with great empathy as if they had been playing together for years. The funky “March Inn” memorializes a burlesque house where Hunter’s father once played piano. The original establishment may not have been located in Rio, but the Brazilian rhythm adds a light touch to the tune.  Hunter’s former boss, Dionne Warwick teams up with composer Ivan Lins for the album’s highlight, a vocal duet on “New Beginning” (an English adaption of  “Começar de Novo”).   Warwick and Lins pare down their voices to the bare minimum for this fragile song about the painful conclusion to a relationship. Lins opens with the original Portuguese lyric, and Warwick follows with Jane Monheit’s sensitive English lyric. Both vocalists keep their phrases short, which allows their voices–and languages–to intertwine. “Avenida Paulista” is a romp in 7/4 time named for one of the major thoroughfares in São Paulo.  A recurring vocal passage by Rique Pantoja adds tonal variety to the arrangement.  I don’t know the name of the dedicatee of the original, “Is Not for Her”, but it probably delighted the female friend who requested an original song from Hunter’s pen. João Castilho contributes a beautiful solo on acoustic guitar, which is followed by a well-developed solo by the composer. The album’s finale, “Say Hello to the Sun” takes us to a sunrise near Hunter’s home in Southern California.  Katisse Buckingham plays a melodic lead on flute over the softly churning Brazilian rhythms of guitarist Iris Nascimento, bassist Rômulo Gomes, drummer Teo Lima, and percussionists Renato Brasa and Aaron Serfaty.  This disc (and its partner, Volume 1) comes highly recommended. 

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