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Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman
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My Brazilian Heart (EP)
By Eric Roberts
Label: Music Magic Productions
Released 9/1/2009
My Brazilian Heart (EP) tracks
1. Brazilian Morning
2. Gentle Breezes
3. Flying Free
4. Children's Song
5. Brazilian Nights
6. Swiss Samba
 
My Brazilian Heart
Heading in a different direction than the introspective and more tone-poem approach that he displayed on 2001's In a Silent Place, acoustic guitarist Eric Roberts sets sail for the soft ocean breezes and sun-soaked beaches of Brazil (as interpreted through the moods and motifs of accessible smooth jazz) on My Brazilian Heart. The six-song EP does indeed contain some Spanish musical influences, notably the sensual Latin rhythms of "Flying Free" and the sexy Spanish flavors of "Swiss Samba," but the majority of this CD is resplendent with the best elements of smooth jazz with literally none of the vapidity or shallowness that sometimes creeps into the genre. Putting it succinctly, this is a killer EP of both mellow and cookin' jazz licks played by Roberts and his guest artists.

Those guests are well-known ambient artist Paul Avgerinos, here contributing on funky soulful bass, Nick Bariluk on keyboards, noted woodwind player Bill Harris and drummer/percussionist Barbara Merjan. Everyone involved plays with finesse, style, and gusto (when it's called for). It's hard to believe these cats haven't been jamming for a long time, to be honest, as their musical chemistry and sense of simpatico is self-evident from the first listen.

One of the comparisons I kept coming up with as I listened to this excellent CD was to Chick Corea's early incarnation of Return to Forever, circa Light as a Feather, because both recordings share a joyous exuberance mated to a refined musicianship and a carefree playfulness as well. My Brazilian Heart is a hugely entertaining recording and I never tired of it over many playings before writing this review.

Brazilian Morning starts things off in a spirited manner with a nice piano intro spiraling into Roberts' guitar side-by-side with Harris' flute. Lively but not overly so, the song sounds like a picture-perfect sunrise! Gentle Breezes captures the titular reference with a midtempo rhythm and perfect amalgam of assorted musical elements—Avgerinos' bass, Merjan's trap kit drums, Bariluk's keyboards and Roberts' guitar. Flying Free sizzles with tropical heat tempered by jazzy undertones and the resultant blend produces just enough fire to get your fingers snapping and toes tapping but is counterbalanced with a giddy effervescence to lighten the mood. Brazilian Nights is, paradoxically, the most "American," i.e. urban, cut on the EP, with sexy sax and vibrant piano supported by the solid rhythm section as well as adroit soloing by Roberts.

I've often written of my belief in the adage "quality over quantity" in reference to EPs, and Eric Roberts' My Brazilian Heart is another example of the veracity of the phrase. I certainly wouldn't have minded more of the same on this recording, but if these six dynamite tracks are what the musicians settled on as being their best efforts, well, that's more than good enough for me. If all smooth jazz recordings were this good, the genre would never have gone out of fashion. Who knows, maybe Roberts and company can even breathe new life into it? Highly recommended!
Rating: Excellent   Excellent
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 12/2/2009
 
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