The format of guitar and piano is one of my favorite combinations. From the classic recordings of Jim Hall and Bill Evans to the more recent interplay between Lionel Loeke and Kevin Hays, I absolutely enjoy this kind of setting.
Listening to this release by pianit Matthias Bublath and 7-string guitarist Michi Ruzitschka, it’s obvious that this album is born out of immense respect for Brazilian music and jazz.
From the opening groove of Cante Jondo, they go straight to defining the mood of the album. The time is solid, the lines locking together and the harmony exciting. As the piano solo comes in, there’s just enough rhythmic dialogue and space. This is often a challenging thing but the duo pulls it off beautifully. The 7 string guitar and the piano sound great together. Even during the strumming bits, everything is clearly defined.
In 324 Centre Street, it’s hard not to bop your head to the flowing melodies punctuated with hits. Some of the twists and turns in the melody reminds me of more 90s smooth jazz, but we quickly hear a wonderful piano solo that segues smoothly into the guitar solo. Talk about tasteful articulation and amazing rhythmic control, there’s so much to love about this track.
Moving on with Nazca, we get out first taste of a 3/4 (and/or) 6/8 piece. Almost classical sounding at times, there’s also folk impressions especially in the melody. This is a strong composition from guitarist Michi Ruzitschka. The later build-up just before the piano solo also gives me some Pat Metheny vibes.
No Rancho Fundo is performed playfully and the bouncy feel is just infectious. Again a great piano solo from Matthias Bublath and a lyrical soulful solo from Michi Ruzitschka even when it’s busier than some of the previous solos we’ve heard so far.
Omaria is moody harmonically and builds up with the pedal point during the piano solo before the release and the melody returning. What a feeling… almost a mix of Piazolla and impressions of flamenco in the outro guitar solo.
Bala Com Bala is exciting as an instrumental which just goes to show how strong the melody this João Bosco tune is even without the lyrics. The pickup into the guitar solo is probably one of my favorite moments on the record and Michi Ruzitschka plays his heart out. The piano solo is equally powerful even though it feels short. I can’t help but smile when the melody comes back. It’s so good.
In Nos, we get a more introspective mood via the rubato opening from the guitar before the conversation commences. Again, the interaction and harmony is hypnotic… and the ending so dynamic and interesting. There is so much storytelling in a single piece.
Hermeto pays tribute to Hermeto Pascoal with the harmonic twists and what sounds like a tasteful interpretation of the Coltrane key changes to me (disclaimer: I haven’t transcribed it yet to make sure). A fun ride for sure!
Slowing things down with their version of Consuelo Velázquez’s classic Besame Mucho, their take on it feels modern and elegant. It’s probably the most surprising choice to include on the album but as soon as I heard it, it fits perfectly especially with the subtle reharmonization on the tag just before the piano solo. Keeping most of the standard chord changes and just doing subtle “changes” (pun intended) is great. The guitar solo here sounds more gypsy jazz inspired and the ending of the piece again has a nice original tag to put their own spin on it.
Closing the album, Samba Norte Sul shows their tasteful virtuosity. Matthias Bublath’s composition is a wonderful vehicle for yet more flowing solos from both of them. As I listen to it, I can’t help but want to transcribe of the great sound phrases that Matthias Bublath plays on his solo.
It’s rare to find an album that is close to perfection musically and this is one of those rare moments. The border between composition and improvisation is paper thin on this album… and both the composed sections and solos are so melodic.
For lovers of piano and guitar, I highly recommend getting this album, close the curtains, put the music on and let it wrap around you as it potentially heals your soul.
Find more information about Matthias Bublath on his official website here: https://www.matthiasbublath.com/
I received a complimentary advance copy of this album courtesy of Liam of Jazzfuel. Thank you for the CD.
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About Matthias Bublath and Michi Ruzitschka
Matthias Bublath and Michi Ruzitschka are both European jazz musicians afflicted with burning passions for music from around the world who have built their lives and careers thousands of miles from home. An exploration of Brazil’s rich musical culture, their debut duo album ‘Duo Norte Sul’ is set to release on May 26th.
Following his initial musical studies in his home, country Austria, and at the esteemed Berklee College of Music, Ruzitschka spent two decades in Brazil absorbing, writing and performing with artists including Toninho Ferragutti, Elba Ramalho and Chico César.
One of the few specialists of the Brazilian 7 string acoustic guitar, his sound is grounded in the Latin American tradition with elements of flamenco and pan-African inflections.
Best known for his award-winning Eight Cylinder Big Band and Hammond Organ Trio, Bublath has spent over ten years in New York as a prolific member of the city’s cutting edge jazz scene. His sound has been described as extremely versatile, bringing together gospel, blues, latin influences, and his European roots into his own compositional and soloistic voice.
Duo Norte Sul, their first duo record, is a collection of intricate original compositions and reinterpretations of Brazilian classics constructed over a number of infectious latin american rhythms including the Baião, Samba, Bossa Nova, Chacarera and Bolero. The pair weave and dart their way through their labyrinthine compositions, executing complex metric maneuvers, unison melodies at breakneck speeds, and highly energetic improvisations without missing a beat – and without the foundation of a drummer or bassist.
Both virtuosos without question, the record is technical without being flashy or over the top. At the core it is the writing, the rich harmony, and the exploration of their shared musical minds that come across as being the most significant features of their duo debut.