Ben Allison Moments Inside (Sonic Camera)

The lithe interplay. The inspired poesy. Nods to all things sensual. When Brazil delivered bossa and samba to the pop world in the late ‘50s and early 60s, and then augmented them with the progressive insights of Tropicalia just after, 20th century musicians had a wealth of provocative ideas to absorb. Jazz improvisers took to it fast, and the joyous sounds of Brazilian pop still fascinate many. Moments Inside finds Ben Allison putting a personal spin on the music’s building blocks, helming a two-guitar ensemble that glides through seven new originals and a supple update of Herbie Nichols’ “House Party Starting.” As they breeze along, they prioritize the same kind of nimble interplay Tropicalia oddities used to craft their memorable auras. The bassist-bandleader has long been a melody man, and this new music is warm and genial, dodging dissonance and stressing accord. From his earliest titles some twenty-plus years ago, he has found ways to craft catchy themes that band members can address in a kaleidoscopic manner, simultaneously refracting several aspects of the music and presenting them as a kaleidoscopic whole. That tack is somewhat downplayed on Moments Inside, though guitarists Chico Pinheiro and Steve Cardenas spend the entire record darting and weaving around each other. Together they create a web of fluid lines dedicated to nuance – grand gestures are verboten. The rhythm section of drummer Allan Mednard and Allison find a unique bond that makes lilt sound like oomph. (Mednard is a pro at this: check the way he lifts Brandee Younger’s harp work on her recent Somewhere Different.) From “The Chase” to “A Child Sings In Stone,” this music floats as often as it soars. And there’s intimacy at work. The performances are vivacious, but it sometimes seems like the band is sharing a little secret with you – a nice balance. Pinheiro is a native Brazilian who grew up with his homeland’s pop tunes; Cardenas is a pro known for his stylistic breadth. Both have built a rep on the expressive touch they bring to their instruments. As they trade lines on “Breakfast With Eric” (a nod to Mr. Dolphy and his compositional tack on Out To Lunch), you can see why Allison paired them. Together they crochet the breezy sensibilities of Brazil into a jazz mindset that makes Moments Inside a familiar yet unique treat. 

TONE Audio

Ben Allison

Ben Allison: Moments Inside

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