Monday, September 17, 2018

Indy Jazz Fest: Brazilian trio joins with adept clarinetist, after Indianapolis saxophonist's quintet opens

Something of a novelty still, a double bill at the Indy Jazz Fest featured two female wind
Anat Cohen has played in a wide variety of musical contexts, but is especially fond of choro.
instrumentalist bandleaders. Jazzwomen with marquee names have historically been singers or pianists.

The headliner Sunday evening at the Cabaret was Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen, who would be the first to admit that the Trio Brasileiro is not her band, but one she is always eager to collaborate with in pursuit of the Brazilian genre known as choro. Introducing the evening of stimulating music was local saxophonist Amanda Gardier, who definitely is the head of her band, a quintet specializing in her compositions, many of which are on her first CD, "Empathy."

Amanda Gardier, in a Mark Sheldon portrait.
Gardier's style on the alto sax is smoothly produced, with a fluid, well-centered tone. Her phrasing is flexible and carefully placed over her rangy themes. She played five songs, sticking in one favorite standard, "I'll Be Seeing You." The familiar tune helped make the audience aware just how comfortable the personnel is in each other's company: Her sidemen are Charlie Ballantine, guitar; Jesse Wittman, bass; Clay Wulbrecht, piano; and Chris Parker, drums.

The ballad "Smoke" is a good place to single out Gardier's composing acumen. Its long, looping phrases embrace a relaxed mood capably. As a player, she carries a showcase for herself superbly, while as a rule the quintet on Sunday presented a balanced, unified front to the enthusiastic audience, though bass and drums tended to remain in supportive roles.

Gardier's "Two Sided" concluded the set, with Wulbrecht setting the tone with a piano solo chordally based somewhat in the Latin style in contrast to his usual affinity for single-line soloing. Ballantine's resonant guitar playing sounded particularly inspired in this tune, and the ensemble settled into a strong coda that made for an ideal conclusion for her Indy Jazz Fest debut as a leader.

Trio Brasileiro was formed in 2011, but the brothers Lora have been playing together for a couple of decades.
Sitting in tall chairs lined up as if for a panel discussion, Cohen and Trio Brasileiro launched into a tightly coordinated set that paradoxically communicated relaxation and jigsaw-puzzle affinities at all tempos.  Trio Brasileiro had its own history well-established before the clarinetist became an occasional partner. Its well-attuned members are brothers Douglas Lora, guitar, and Alexandre Lora, pandeiro (a hand frame drum similar to a tambourine), with Dudu Maia, mandolin.

A combination of well-known choro pieces and Cohen's compositions in the genre made up the program. There were occasional chances for showcasing something other than the full combination, such as clarinet-pandeiro and guitar-mandolin duets. They confirmed that compatibility among this expert personnel can be cut all sorts of ways.

To end the set, the joy and near-combustible energy of team sports in soccer-mad Brazil got an extensive exposition (complete with a momentary group imitation of the "flopping" phenomenon) in the aptly titled "1-0." That's a not uncommon final score of the kind that makes some North Americans shy away from the world's most popular sport. There was nothing to shy away from in the effervescent appeal of Cohen and Trio Brasileiro at the Cabaret Sunday night, however.

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