Bandolim's Wandering Bodhisattva Danilo Brito Arrives from Brazil

By Produção

by Bruce Gilman

Musicians' technical skills have been on a rising curve for decades, and clearly a high point has been attained by the energetic and intensely serious Danilo Brito, a bandolim player who grabs hold of every piece he plays, leaving no doubt why he won Brazilian Popular Music's 7th Prêmio Visa, instrumental edition.

The Prêmio Visa de MPB, a competition for musicians created and produced by Eldorado Radio and sponsored by Visa, took place for the first time in 1998. It is the most important and respected competition in Brazilian popular music, and as part of the prize, provides winners with the opportunity to record a CD.

Teeming with technically superb and musically distinctive melodic invention, Brito's CD, Perambulando, embodies the spirit of an age, radiates musical and cultural understanding, and presents an important aspect of Brazil's heritage (performance practice) to a younger generation.

In addition to four strongly-written Brito originals, the disc includes pieces by Severino Araújo, Pixinguinha, and Ernesto Nazaré - and it's high time someone took a fresh look at these works in light of changing attitudes toward performance practice.

In particular, the disc serves as a fine introduction to a coherent solo style, paced by ideas assembled in an imaginative manner. Brito's good taste steers him well clear of any prevalent trends, allowing the music's integrity to reveal itself from within. This CD embraces superbly crafted music of, at times, overwhelming intensity.

The craft and the intensity are inseparable: there's as little here of mere technical cleverness as there is of self-indulgent emotional display; the emotion both needs and is concentrated by tight control. Brito's craftsmanship and talent for writing are indisputable even by those whose tastes are for less elaborate fare.

This arresting CD finds Brito in the company of musicians with whom he is conversant; a general aura of good feelings, generated by the soloists and supporting musicians, permeates all tracks.The title-track, "Perambulando" (Wandering) opens the CD and properly sets the mood.

A self-declared bohemian, Brito wrote it as an homage to himself, albeit tongue-in-cheek, while moving between nighttime club and bar gigs in São Paulo.  The tune's sinuous melody, benefiting from impeccable ensemble playing, has something to delight all but the most misanthropic listeners.

Serving up a potent mix of adrenaline-fueled vigor and jaw-dropping virtuosity, Brito displays his harmonic vocabulary and rare gift for flowing lyric invention on "Sussuarana," a particularly effective example of his composing and instrumental capabilities.Featuring Toninho Ferragutti on accordion, this baião takes its title from a tiny village in the state of Paraí­ba where Brito's father, an amateur bandolim player, was born.

Forthright and driving, it is a comprehensive exposition of modern bandolim playing, with Brito's needle-sharp thought and attack providing notice that his extraordinary plectrum technique is intact.

One of the best known tunes in the choro repertoire, Severino Araújo's "Espinha de Bacalhau" (Spine of the Codfish) was composed for clarinet, Araújo's instrument. In this show of virtuosity, the interpreter must be careful or wind up "swallowing the cod's spine."

Here, with bandolim replacing the clarinet, but without altering the harmonic structure, Brito hews closely to the tune's original melodic and harmonic contours, his unflagging inventive flow and nonstop torrents of precisely structured tones giving the tune a fresh,"first-time-through" feel.