Friday, August 16, 2013

Ivan Lins & SWR Big Band - DownBeat

Ivan Lins & SWR Big Band
** 1/2

This project is a combination of a lot of phone calls. Brazilian vocalist/composer Ivan Lins is joined by the Germand SWR big band and, briefly, a South African choir. The 13 dense tracks were recorded in five different recording studios on four continents. Those passport stamps are clearly reflected within the first 30 seconds of the album when Themba Mkhize's choir kickstarts the proceedings before a wailing saxophone joins the fray of spiraling keyboards and a sputtering horn section. Eventually Lins joins with his sleek tones and pop sensibility. This doesn't feel so much like a big band album as a Brazilian pop record with a lot of instruments. SWR moves primarily as a unit, offering bright brass throughout but with not enough emphasis on solo opportunities. Squiggly laughter and other sound effects dot the landscape, adding a playful vibe. "Todo Mundo" has an enthusiastic bounce complete with Carnival percussion while "Roada Baiana" has a stop-start hi-hat that is refreshingly disjointed and pleasantly upbeat. But a sort of sameness pervades large parts of the recording, a formula that gets a little predictable as the album moves along as though every musician should be on every track. SWR is an immaculate big band that moves seamlessly through their arrangements and Lins is a sensitive vocalist, but it reaches an over-saturation point early on and never lets up.

Ivan Lins @ DownBeat

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