Half Notes: Nilson Matta and Roni Ben-Hur – Mojave (2011)

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Roni Ben-Hur & Nilson Matta, by John Abbott

Israeli-born guitarist Roni Ben-Hur and Brazlian-born bassist Nilson Matta head a date with percussionist Café (another Brazilian) and American drummer Victor Lewis in tow, called Mojave. While the title might conjure up images of the American Southwest, pay closer attention to the native country of both the bass player and the percussionist, because it is the rich musical heritage of Brazil that informs much of this music. More to the point, Ben-Hur set out to make an album equally enriched by both jazz and Brazlian music forms, and it’s a mission they accomplish with aplomb and quiet craftsmanship. Gliding through a program in just two days of Jobim, Pixinguinha, Burt Bacharach and Baden Powell songs, along with originals contributed by all four participants, the music here is executed with relaxed confidence of men who obviously revel in this stuff.

Ben-Hur, a honey-toned guitarist, has a great feel for rhythm that matches his sensitivity to harmony, and Matta’s steady, precise bass is the same bass that attracted jazz bigs like Don Pullen, Kenny Barron and Joe Henderson to call on his services. The tempo varies nicely from track to track, but make no mistake, it’s a mellow record all the way through. Yet, consistently pleasant. “Laventos,” with Matta and Ben-Hur unison lines, and the Matta original “Baden” are among the highlights. Released last month, Mojave is prime relaxing Brazilian jazz without sacrificing any chops.

‘Half Notes’ are quick-take thoughts on music from Something Else! Reviews, presented whenever the mood strikes us.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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