Bill Frisell can send heads to spinning trying to figure out how he
works those loops he manipulates. All by himself, he can make music that wraps
around multiple melodic and rhythmic lines conjured by his guitar. Give the man
a partner, who also plays guitar, and throw in percussion, and you’ve got
something unimaginably tricky.
Which is not to say you’ve got something that’s anything but
compelling and frequently beautiful. Vinicius Cantuaria has been a leading
light of Brazilian pop music for decades, and he meets Frisell at the midpoint
of their respective interests as composers.
Cantuaria has worked with rock and jazz musicians ranging from David
Byrne to Brad Mehldau, so he doesn’t restrict
himself to the traditional styles of his homeland, ever-changing as they
are. Frisell loves to take his improvisational background and tone it down to
fit the restrictions of simpler forms. Lagrimas
Mexicanas is something unique to both their recorded oeuvres.
Students of Latin and Brazilian music will recognize forms taken from
all over Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Cantuaria sings mostly in Portugese, but occasionally in Spanish and once in
English. Each piece is co-composed by Frisell and Cantuaria, and they build up
complex layers of structure through loops and possibly overdubs (the liner
notes don’t specify). There can be two
different percussive sounds, two acoustic guitar rhythm parts, two electric
guitar lines, and Cantuaria’s vocals, all wrapping around each other into a
stunning overlap of texture and melody.
Opening cut “Mi Declaracion,” is a darkly foreboding mood piece with
an exquisite vocal and Frisell’s trademark guitar sounds. “Lagrimas de Amor” is
a joyous piece which doesn’t exactly reflect the title, which translates to
“Tears of Love.” “Aquela Mulher” is built on Cantuaria’s Jobim-like acoustic
guitar and vocal, while Frisell dances his twin electric lines around the basic
piece. Strangest, and perhaps strongest of all, is “Briga de Namorados,” which
starts and ends with a ragtime structure applied to multiple guitars, and then
shifts into a mid-20th Century classical mode for a couple minutes
in the middle.
Mexicanas fits no preconceived slots, yet perfectly captures the meeting of two
musical minds of distinctive bent. Frisell and Cantuaria have guest-starred
with each other before, but this first complete collaboration demands that they
work together some more.
DOWNLOAD: “Briga de
Namorados,” “Lagrimas de Amor,” “Mi Declaracion” STEVE PICK