André Mehmari is far from being a quirky interpreter. His compositions that flesh out this wonderful album are immaculate statements from a musical topography that is unique to the composer.
The young multi-instrumentalist—heard on piano—on Afetuoso is possessed of a profound talent exceeding almost all of his contemporaries. He has flawless technique, absolute pitch and invariably brings a head-full of ideas to the keyboard whenever his hands flow across it. Moreover, he is one of the most expressive pianists not only in Brasil, but throughout the Americas. He is unafraid to explore ideas, taking them as far as they can go, using short and long phrases and lines to express them. His unfettered ingenuity enables him to express himself and his music in staggering vertical leaps and plunges; in circles and parabolas, and in the geometry of dazzling zigzag forms that defy gravitational forces as he soars into the azure beyond. His music emerges from his soul with a purity of thought that is almost spiritual; and even when expressing the profane—as every Brasilian must at some time—there is cleanliness of imagery that elevates whatever he plays to a plane occupied by great artists such as Egberto Gismonti, who precede him in years and experience.
Mehmari is a composer of considerable repute and might easily fill records with hours of his own music. On Afetuoso, an album that is dedicated to some of his muses he shares compositional duties with them. For instance there is an extended tribute to the maverick Milton Nascimento, who once haunted the innards of Club Esquina at the height of the protest of Brasilian dictatorial politics, forming a great following behind him. The so named track on this album is a tribute to both Nascimento as well as to the iconic venue that became a kind of soapbox for protest against neo-colonialism at its worst. But the track has a new, wistful feel to it as if Mehmari—probably too young at the height of the protest movement—were recalling something from urban Brasilian folklore. And this is key to the passing of the proverbial torch from the old guard of the MPB movement to a fluttering new Musica Brasileira that has reabsorbed the roots of Brasilian music and relocated it to a more global soundscape that includes Late Romantic Europe.
Perhaps the proof lies in the exquisitely re-imagination of the music of Robert Schumann—one the Viennese “Intermezzo” and the other “Sehr Langsam, From the Youth Album”. Both are brooding, beautiful and float on a rhythmic bed of Brasilian binary forms that propel samba and Maracatu. But Mehmari is far from being a quirky interpreter. His compositions that flesh out this wonderful album are immaculate statements from a musical topography that is unique to the composer. Charts such as “Choro da Continua Amizade” and the eternally beautiful “Lachrimae – E Doce Morrer No Mar” characterize Mehmari as one steeped in the music of his Brasilian soul; yet they carry the blush of contemporary European vintage that gives them a glaze that is rare and quite memorable. And his majestic arpeggios that conjure up the sitar in George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” show him to be unafraid of adventure that is further afield than many Brasilians—or other American musicians for that matter—will dare to go.
Andre Mehmari is also exacting about his choice of missionaries on his various sojourns. Here he employs the masterful percussion colorings of Sérgio Reze and the superior harmonics of Zé Alexandre Carvalho to enable him to produce an album of surpassing beauty and memorability.
Track Listing: 1. Suite Clube da Esquina: Club de Esquina I – Durango Kid – Club de Esquina II – Cravo e Canela; 2. Que Falta Faz Tua Ternura; 3. Veredas; 4. Faschingsschwank aus Wien – Intermezzo; 5. Trio for Austin; 6. Nascente; 7. Sehr Langsam – From The Youth Album; 8. Choro da Continua Amizade; 9. Mãos de Afeto; 10. Pra Quem Quiser me Visitar; 11. Lachrimae – E Doce Morrer No Mar; 12. Within You Without You.
Personnel: André Mehmari: piano; Sérgio Reze: drums; Zé Alexandre Carvalho: double bass.
André Mehmari – Official website: www.andremehmari.com.br
Label: Celeste Records (Japan)
Release date: April 2011