Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Oscar Castro-Neves: All One

Written by Fumo Verde

Who is this and why are you listing to it, Fumo?

Oscar Castro-Neves is a cat from Rio, Brazil. He was born into a musical family and by the time he was a teenager, he was writing, arranging, and composing all of his own material when people in the mid-1950s started to notice. He, along with Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto, was a vanguard of the Bossa Nova sound, which was a Latin beat that was coming out of South America and the Caribbean during some heavy times when the cold war was in full swing. It was music that gave the American people the haze of a tropical paradise south of the equator. After becoming a member of Sergio Mendes' group in the early ‘70s, his fame spread, and since he has performed with such greats as Yo-Yo Ma, Joe Henderson, Stan Getz, Eliane Elias, Edu Lobo, and countless other Brazilian jazz, classical and pop music stars. His big hit in the U.S. was “The Girl from Ipanema”.

Oscar has an impressive resume and he can play beautifully. “Double Rainbow” is a cool instrumental that uses guitars and violins along with a basic Brazilian rhythm that is the thread that ties this whole CD together. For anyone looking for something light and airy, like a scone, this song is it. He revs it up a bit in the title track, "All One", which reminds me of a cheesy ‘70s movie I saw late one night after a New Jersey Devils victory. With a binger by my side, I came across an old Sony and Cher movie, where they were young and Cher still had her original face. They ran through the flowers as the wind blew. The third track is called "Kurski Funk" and I’m still trying to figure out why. With a chorus chanting and clapping, this could be one of those World Music fusions, like a Brazilian and African mix, which it seemed Oscar was shooting for that but came up short. It smoothes out into something about to erupt but unfortunately, it never comes to pass.

Luciana Souza, a famous Latin singer lends her voice to “Morre De Amor”, and though my Spanish sucks (my English ain't to better either), I do believe this is a love song. Luciana's voice is beautiful, and the piano and violin add to the richness of Souza's sound, as it does on “Nao Me Diga Adeus” where Oscar starts out funky, before merging into late night jazz bar grooves, adding Luciana in between the piano and saxophone mini-jams. "One Bad Habit" ends the disc. Oscar explains his one bad habit, which of course, "it's you...I'm always bouncing in the buff with you". Whoa, Oscar. Kids read this shit; watch your mouth.

I'm not dissing Oscar for anything; his musical portfolio and talent go unopposed, and personally, I liked this album though it’s more background than forefront. Even if you don't want to hear this, you may someday, if you are in a hotel, in a midwestern mall, or going into see your broker. This album is for those you who enjoy the Muzak sound that drifted on the fringes of ‘70s disco balls and the soft music that plays in your doctor’s office while your waiting for your colonoscopy. The arrangements work out fine, but each song sounds too much like an elevator ride. I was left feeling cheated, waiting for heavy Brazilian guitar-playing and conga beats to kick in. “All One” started out sounding great, but then just got melded into jazz fusion that is right now being pumped through your phone, as you sit there on hold waiting for your bank.

This is Fumo, saying, “Adios, babies.