This week by coincidence I grabbed 2 cds from the unlistened to jazz shelf with very similar intents: Brazilian jazz headed up by acoustic guitarists who aren't Brazilian. The approaches to the music are extreme, with subsequently extreme results. One works, one irks.
Nate Najar - Aquarela do Brasil (2013) 3/10
This will hardly be a review, since the album both annoyed me and frequently blended into the road noise. There is no lack of talent here, Nate is a fantastic guitarist. There is just an air of pretension & pedantry that turned me off: "we are about to show you how Brazilian music is done". In addition - not that I follow Harry Allen that much, but he conjures up Getz here to a degree I'm not comfortable with. The best tracks are "Canto de Ossanha" and the title track, (known to the rest of us simply as "Brazil"). Bassist Tommy Cecil's "Samba for Felix" also has it's moments. As I mentioned - the cd annoyed me, but not enough to make me shut it off. I think there are plenty of jazz lovers out there who will love it to pieces.
Tom Lagana Group featuring George Garzone - Vol. 1 (2013) - 7/10
The approach to Brazilian on this album is very casual and relaxed. Occasionally this results in overly long ballads. By and large though, this is a highly listenable album with quality sound and performances. There are just a few legit Brazilian numbers (Jobim's "Outra Vez" is a nice opener, Ary Barroso's "Para Machucar Meu Coracao" is lovely but very long) along with a few originals, the best being bassist Tom Baldwin's "Bossa Moderna"; and pleasant standards ("The Shadow of Your Smile", "Moonlight in Vermont" and in particular the duo version of "Nature Boy" are all very worthwhile listens). Baldwin and drummer Dominic Smith provide appropriately minimal support for this setting with enough pep to prevent boredom. The whole show is Lagana - who plays with heart and very little pretense, and Garzone - whose tone is lovely as %^&* and who is in a very subdued mode, for the most part. I have not heard him play this way - it's awesome. The best track is a simple reading of Chick Corea's "Armando's Rhumba", with Garzone waking things up on soprano.