Mary Fettig
"Brazilian Footprints"

(F Major Records)
Brazilian Footprints

Review by Brad Walseth

This may be the most joyous and purely listenable recording of the year. Mary Fettig is an incredibly talented musician on the alto and soprano saxes and flute. The first female member of the Stan Kenton Orchestra, The Bay Area-based Fettig has recorded with Kenton, Tito Puente, Marian McPartland, Flora Purim, Nnenna Freelon and many more, along with television and movie soundtrack work. On this her third recording as leader she has surrounded herself with an impressive group of musicians to help her achieve an exploration of Brazilian music that is melodic, but not loungey, exciting, but not at the expense of warping the basic beauty of the Brazilian sound. It just sounds good.

Covering some mostly lesser-known Brazilian standards ("No Balanco do Jequibau," "Jequie," "Neguinha," "Inspiracao na Esquina"), as well as some wonderful new original pieces written by keyboardist Marcos Silva and one by guitarist Chico Pinheiro, the results are lush and engaging. The musicianship is exceptional: Fettig, Silva, Pinheiro and amazing 6-string bassist Scott Thompson provide the solos, while Silva, Thompson, drummer Celso Alberti, Alex Calatayud and Micahel Spiro provide the rhythm base. With careful attention given to the very tasteful arrangements by the in-tune musicians and the clean recording by Bruce Mishkit, "Brazilian Footprints" is the musical equivalent of a stroll on the beach on a sunny day.

Claudio Roditi and Ricardo Silveira's "The Monster and the Flower" is also covered and is a highlight to end the album, but Silva's originals really shine as well. Fettig shows her skills throughout and is the centerpiece and primary melodic instrument, whether on shimmering sax or gracious flute. Thompson's bass explosions are a true treat, and special attention should be given to singer Claudia Villella, who combines the vocal timbre of the late great pop singer Karen Carpenter with a Latin free-floating wordless vocal take on Silva's gorgeous "Waterfalls." But despite the wonderful playing throughout, the solos fir the context, and the true stars of the show are the songs themselves, which is how it should be anyway. Highly recommended for Brazilian Jazz fans or anyone looking to put a contented smile on their face.

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