Album Of The Week: Oração Para Amanhã (Prayer For Tomorrow), Roger Davidson Trio With Hendrik Meurkens

by chipboaz on June 30, 2017

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A long time ensemble with steady members holds many musical benefits, but every once in a while, they need to keep things interesting by throwing an unknown element into the mix. The consistency piece breeds artistic familiarity and eventually an almost telepathic communication on stage that makes every performance just a bit more exciting. This is how new ideas grow and musicians finds varied modes of performance that they couldn’t discover on their own. Still, any approach falls into routine after the consistency has been established, and things get to a point where the musicians need a new voice to spark different directions. A permanent change doesn’t need to happen (although it could); even a temporary guest artist could trigger new explorations. New ideas and inspired playing are audibly arising consistently on Oração Para Amanhã, an exciting live set of Brazilian Jazz from pianist Roger Davidson and his trio with special guest Hendrik Meurkens.

Bringing Instinctive Playing To The Foreground With Up-Tempo Samba
The musicians share an energetic rush on a several tracks, exploring their musicianship on uptempo samba tunes. Drummer Adriano Santos introduces “Rio de Janeiro” with a powerful samba groove that sends Davidson and Meurkens sailing into a memorable melody that plays around rhythm section kicks. Davidson plays off the energetic momentum of the rhythm section, filling his solo with a fierce conviction, followed by Meurkens, who builds an attention grabbing solo around the rhythmic core of the samba. Belo develops a solo around smart rhythms before turning the spotlight over to Santos, who erupts into a powerful rhythmic statement. The band charges enthusiastically into a lively melody on “September Samba,” bouncing around the groove with a rhythmically vibrant performance from Davidson and Meurkens. Davidson energetically leaps into his solo with a careful embellishment upon the main theme which serves as a thoughtfully planned variation. The sharp attack of Meurkens’ vibraphone hits the edges of his spontaneously crafted ideas with a bright emphasis, leading into a rhythmically clever and melodically interesting statement from bassist Eduardo Belo. Both Meurkens and Davison drive “O Trem da Vida” forward with a persistently rhythmic melody that finds fuel within the rhythm section’s powerful samba. The bright tone of Meurkens’ vibraphone sits well in the groove, helping him drive rapid arpeggios and single note rhythms into a climatic statement. Davidson sends melodies flying over the rhythm section with thickly voiced chords, followed by a combination solo filled with dexterity and clever thematic development from Belo. Davidson provides a forceful push to the underlying samba with assertive chords, while Meurkens breezes through the melody on “O Veráo” with a relaxed dexterity. The pianist revisits the melody with smart variations, keeping the groove, as he moves into Meurkens’ aggressively bluesy statement. Both Davidson and Meurkens trade phrases with Santos, who brilliantly constructs rhythmic melodies around the groove. These tunes find the musicians relying upon technique and quick thinking, bringing instinctive playing to the foreground.

Revealing Inner Artistry Through Exposed Settings
The group pairs down to some thin textures for pieces that spotlight certain aspects of the members’ musicianship. A very light rhythm section fills the backdrop with color behind “Saudades,” while Davidson and Meurkens join together on a sparse melody. The vibrato and sustain of Meurkens’ vibraphone reflect the shimmering harmony with a rich collection of arpeggiated chords and gentle melodic shapes. Davidson chooses each note of his solo with a thoughtful precision that reflects his compositional aesthetic, while Belo follows with a complimentary statement. Davidson introduces “Amor Brasileiro” with a serious tone, flowing through the melody with a richly harmonized solo interpretation. Belo adds some depth with long sturdy bass notes while Meurkens travels through the melody on harmonica, capturing the song’s reflective nature. As the musicians build a dramatic shape to the piece, Davidson returns to the melody with powerful improvised commentary from Meurkens before they both find their way to the main theme. A quietly understated collection of thick chords and arpeggios flow beneath the melody on “Saudade Do Brasil,” as Davidson sets a gentle tone. Meurkens joins Davidson on harmonica, improvising through the song with an insightful grace that reflects the pianist’s careful approach. When the two musicians return to the main theme, the ideal nature of their pairing becomes apparent, with Meurkens’ focused exploration beautifully contrasting Davidson’s stately playing. Davidson spins repeated phases into a gorgeous melody on “Três Estrelas” with a breathtaking elegance, phrasing with a careful attention to detail. As the pianist sits exposed on this solo performance, the vast reaches of his harmonic knowledge comes to life with colorful reharmonization and clever voicings. He also shows an unexpected restraint in his execution, demonstrating that some times the beauty lies in the notes not played. Each of these tracks finds the musicians working in exposed settings that allow them to communicate while revealing their inner artistry.

Common Artistic Ground On Bossa Nova Pieces
The group finds an artistic common ground on a number of bossa nova tracks, where they play with an unbridled joy for the music. There’s a gentle sway to the lazy bossa nova groove on “Sonho da Tarde” that provides the perfect setting for Meurkens’ harmonica to soar through the melody. Meurkens applies his ferocious chops to a captivating solo that flies between rapids streams of notes, a rich melodic sensibility, and a flair for drama. Davidson shapes his improvisation around a powerful dynamic shape, leading fluidly into a statement from Belo that traverses the range of his instrument with a committed integrity. A somber seriousness falls over the ensemble on “Oração para Amanhã” as Davidson and Meurkens purposefully present the melody over an understated bossa nova. Ending the melody with a flourish on vibraphone, Meurkens storms into an inspired solo that pushes the group into a powerful forward motion. Using big ears, Belo grabs ideas from the comping around him and stretches those thoughts into a full statement that balances an underlying sense of hope and foreboding. Davidson and Meurkens float through the melody on “Tarde Sonhadora” with a gentle playfulness that bounces around the rhythm section’s buoyant bossa nova. The pianist spins clever melodies that find a joyful balance between the main theme, the inner workings of the harmony, and the song’s vibrant feel, followed by a smart statement from Belo. The rhythm section kicks into high gear as Meurkens attacks his vibraphone with an enthusiastic exploration of the harmony. Soft rhythm section breaks frame a playful theme on “A Escada,” which finds Davidson joyfully gliding through long runs and rhythm phrases. Meurkens displays some serious virtuosity on the harmonica during an inspired solo, inspiring Belo to fly across the range of his instrument with a fluid enthusiasm. Davidson hammers away at big chords with catchy rhythms that play off a vibrant connection to the melody, bringing an appealing fire to his improvisation. Given the opportunity to simply swing through the groove and improvise without pressure, the group puts all their strengths front and center.

Playing With An Enthusiastically Collaborative Spirit
Oração Para Amanhã shimmers with beauty, energy, and a vibrant liveliness that arises from a collection of inspired musicians sharing their best qualities. Davidson plays with a symphonic formality that carefully treads the line between composition and improvisation, always paying deference to the melodic and harmonic content. The pianist often walks the line between rhythm section member and featured soloist, keeping his left hand busy while structuring the songs with his right hand. Meurkens provides a beautiful contrast, approaches his solos with a spontaneous sense of awareness and insight. He works as a team player through the collection of music, respectfully playing his role within Davidson’s compositions while injecting a healthy dose of personality. Belo emerges as a wonderful soloist with a wonderful melodic sensibility while subtly pushing the groove at every turn. With every groove, Santos keeps a rich connection to Brazilian culture while playing with the sensitivity and responsiveness of a top jazz drummer. Davidson, Meurkens, and the trio play with an enthusiastically collaborative spirit throughout Oração Para Amanhã, exploring the ideas brought to the table and delivering an exciting performance.

Track Listing:
1. September Samba (Roger Davidson)
2. Sonho da Tarde (Roger Davidson)
3. Oração para Amanhã (Roger Davidson)
4. Rio de Janeiro (Roger Davidson)
5. Saudades (Roger Davidson)
6. Tarde Sonhadora (Roger Davidson)
7. Amor Brasileiro (Roger Davidson)
8. O Trem da Vida (Roger Davidson)
9. Saudade Do Brasil (Roger Davidson)
10. A Escada (Roger Davidson)
11. Três Estrelas (Roger Davidson)
12. O Veráo (Roger Davidson)

Musicians:
Roger Davidson – piano; Hendrik Meurkens – harmonica, vibraphone; Eduardo Belo – bass; Adriano Santos – drums

Check Out More Great LJC Content:
Album Of The Week: Mr. EP – A Tribute To Eddie Palmieri, Charlie Sepulveda & The Turnaround
Album Of The Week: The Art Of Latin Jazz, Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre
Album Of The Week: Hybrido – From Rio To Wayne Shorter, Antonio Adolfo
Album Of The Week: Backlog, Steve Khan

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