My Brazilian Heart
Music Magic Productions (2009)
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!
Zone Music Reporter
It’s not often that guitarist Eric Roberts makes a new CD but when he does it’s clearly worth a listen. Back in 2005 Roberts released his CD debut, a fine instrumental showcase for his guitar skills called In A Silent Place. Now in 2009 the Colorado based guitarist follows up with a newly recorded 6 track CD (EP) entitled My Brazilian Heart. Everything about this new CD release speaks quality—from the studio recording sound down to the eye-catching cover artwork. Whereas In A Silent Place found Roberts in the studio recording a stellar mix of jazzy and reflective yet upbeat New Age guitar instrumentals, with My Brazilian Heart he also sounds influenced by the tropical sounds of Brazil combined with smooth jazz. Roberts recorded In A Silent Place in the studio with former Paul Winter Consort cellist David Darling and fittingly, Roberts lists a number of players among his chief influences including Paul Winter guitarist Ralph Towner, as well huge Brazilian music legends like Charlie Byrd and Baden Powell. In addition to the comparison with the early Paul Winter Consort sound, there’s also a neoclassical jazz music sound in the mix with a sublime Jean Pierre Rampal meets Earl Klugh vibe in play on My Brazilian Heart, often mixing within the same track! If there’s one minor aside here it’s that the disc only contains six tracks but the music is so good you’ll find yourself reaching for the replay button to hear it again more than once. If enough people get to hear it, I’m sure Roberts will consider a volume two in the future. A number of players appear backing up Roberts on these six guitar masterpieces including Paul Avgerinos (bass), Bill Harris (woodwinds), Nick Bariluk (keyboards) and Barbara Merjan. My Brazilian Heart makes a fine spin for jazz and Brazilian music lovers that can also serve a (drums/percussion). Easy on the ears, uplifting guitar based instrumentals, My Brazilian Heart makes a fine spin for jazz and Brazilian music lovers that can also serve as a cinematic and reflective musical backdrop for your weary ears.
MusicWeb Express 3000 (www.mwe3.com)
Eric Roberts is a prolific guitarist with an impressive career as sideman. He has been backing up famous entertainers such as Chuck Berry, The Fifth Dimension, The Drifters, Bob Hope, Joan Rivers, Anthony Newley, Maureen McGovern, and the Smothers Brothers. He also performed in several Broadway shows.
On his albums he is addicted to Brazilian music. Known by this artist are In A Silent Place (2001) and My Brazilian Heart (2009). He is accompanied on this sophomore project by Paul Avgerinos (bass), Nick Bariluk (keyboards), Bill Harris (woodwind), and Barbara Merjan (drums, percussion).
On the lovely ballade Brazilian Morning Eric reveals his passion for natural beauty and smooth melodies. Mellow piano tones, Bill’s flute and Eric’s acoustic guitar are the right set to complete this mission.
Flowing like Gentle Breezes, Eric Roberts’ temperate guitar chords warm up heart and soul. With the energetic Bossa Nova Flying Free Eric demonstrates his skills in Latin guitar music. This up-tempo tune with a hooky melody is my personal favorite.
The swinging waltz Children’s Song features Nick Bariluk’s piano play of elegance and grandeur. Bill’s flute and Eric’s guitar follow in an awe-inspiring duet. The Latin-flavored Brazilian Nights opens the dream chamber for Bill Harris on sax.
My Brazilian Heart’s spirit shines on Swiss Samba, the easy going finale of the album. This track enthuses many guitarists worldwide and maybe it could soon be a guitar standard. The song is Eric’s tribute to his stay in Switzerland. He comments: “I was living in Geneva, Switzerland where there was a small Brazilian music community and a great Brazilian club that I used to hang out and play at. Living in Geneva was a wonderful (but expensive) experience, and I truly loved the appreciation of music & art that was so prevalent there, as well as the spectacular scenery, too!”
Eric Roberts’ album My Brazilian Heart is exactly that, what the title promises, fine compositions for all lovers of good Brazilian music.
I know what you’re thinking….. You’re saying to yourself, “With that album cover, I like it already!”
That was the feeling I got when I laid my eyes upon the My Brazilian Heart (EP) from accomplished guitarist Eric Roberts. Without ever hearing Roberts play, and judging from the title of the CD, I imagined this to have a Latin flavor or flamenco style. I was quite surprised to find that this was more of a smooth jazz effort that sprinkled a slight Latin style over bits of these well-crafted songs.
The CD opens up with a track called “Brazilian Morning,” and it is a soft and somewhat somber sounding composition very reminiscent of Bob James’ “Angela.” Many of you know “Angela” as the theme song to the hit TV show “Taxi,” I know it as one of my favorite instrumental songs of all time. “Brazilian Morning” is done with the same class and artistry, while it creates much the same mood that “Angela” created for James. We hear some of Roberts’ most nimble fret work on tracks like “Flying Free” and “Swiss Samba,” where his acoustic guitar mastery takes center stage. But maybe the most exciting thing about this CD is the way he plays with his band.
Eric Roberts is a guitar player that has played with the likes of Chuck Berry, Maureen McGovern, Peter Noone, and Cab Calloway. Everyone that plays on this record gives an excellent performance and has an impressive and extensive resume. One of the most impressive jewels in this treasure chest of artists is woodwinds player Bill Harris. Harris has performed with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, The Brecker Brothers, and more. He is a major contributor on each of these songs. From the flute sounds of “Brazilian Morning” and “Children’s Song,” to the horn pieces that passionately play through “Gentle Breezes” and “Brazilian Nights,” Bill Harris is clearly the right guy for the job. Another gem is keyboard player Nick Bariluck. With piano playing that compliments Roberts guitar perfectly, Bariluck proves to be essential to the overall sound of this CD. And maybe the most overlooked element of this grouping is drummer Barbara Merjan. Her subtle snare tapping and her highly intricate and complex cymbal work make her a quiet, but bright shining star that hangs over this smooth jazz excursion.
Now that I’m familiar with Eric Roberts brand of smooth jazz, I go back to the cover art once more. This is a 6-pack of songs that represents the cover art better than any album I’ve ever had the pleasure to look upon. Roberts and his crew make this cover come to life, and as a resident of the Chicago area soon to be bearing the weight of another brutal winter, this is a CD package that is going to be getting a lot of attention.
Once again, I would especially like to thank my good friend and “patient” Robert at Music Web Express 3000 for connecting me with great music.
You can check out tons of reviews, interviews and more at the excellent www.mwe3.com website.