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Orfeu (1999)

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Stephen Scott

The great Ron Carter continues his intermittent love affair with Brazilian music, joined by a somewhat unlikely cast of characters. Guitarist Bill Frisell delivers yet another of his superb sideman performances, including a pinpoint harmonic dissection of "Goin' Home," Carter's bossa nova adaptation of Dvorak's "New World Symphony." The sonic blend of Frisell's guitar, Houston Person's tenor saxophone, and Stephen Scott's piano is consistently delightful, especially on the melody of Carter's "Por-Do-Sol." All three soloists turn in excellent performances on the three remaining Carter originals, "Saudade," "Obrigado," and "1:17 Special," as well as two Luiz Bonfa tunes from the film Black Orpheus, "Manha de Carnaval" and "Samba de Orfeu." Carter's melody statement and solo on the latter are his only steps into the spotlight; otherwise, he remains in a rhythmic support role, along with drummer Payton Crossley and percussionist Steve Kroon.

This record could have been merely one more Latin-themed album by an American jazz musician. But creative production choices and fantastic musicianship make it artistically solid and uncommonly beautiful. ~ David R. Adler