Imagine a cat playing the drums with its whiskers and you'll have a fine sense of what makes Duduka Da Fonseca so special. When he plays bossa nova, it's not your standard-issue shuffle rhythm. Duduka is constantly trying new ways to approach the cool folk style. This is certainly the case on his new album: New Samba Jazz Directions (Zoho), which takes the bossa to a new, exciting level.
"Samba and bossa nova (which originated from samba) have been at the heart of my playing since the beginning. They are usually played on the bass drum, with the traditional ostinato pattern (dotted eighth/sixteenth notes) placed on the bass drum. The Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 album with João Palma on drums is a good example of this way of playing.
"But I believe that in samba or bossa nova, one can also choose to use the bass drum much more freely, without the obligation of playing the traditional ostinato pattern the whole time, using the bass drum to play syncopated accents as an accompanying voice. I sometimes like to alternate between the two approaches, even in the same song. I also love feathering the bass drum, a technique, as the word implies, in which you play very softly."
Softly indeed. Duduka has the sensitivity of a safe-cracker and his touch is remarkable. You listen to this album and marvel at how gentle intensity can be—like the summer wind, with its warm gusts. But on his new album, Duduka isn't alone—though he could have been and I'm sure it would have offered revelations. Here, he's working with his trio—David Feldman on piano and Guto Wirtti on bass.
Feldman [pictured] is responsible for bringing the searing side of the music to the fore, with Wirtti's bass pumping along as if it's another part of Duduka's drum kit. If you draw a blank over Feldman's name, he's among the most in-demand players in Brazil—for his firm command of the instrument and his Bill Evans-like sensitivity. Wirtti is equally soft and savvy. There's something to be said for recording this music in Rio de Janeiro.
All of Duduka's albums are magic carpets that take you to coastal places where the air smells sweet and swaying trees appear to be in concert with the surf. But unlike most assembly-line bossa nova albums, this one isn't background music. It's insistent in the quietest way. For Duduka, the best way to communicate is to compel listeners to lean in. What I love most about this album is that you can focus on the individual players or the trio without missing a beat.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find The Duduka Da Fonseca Trio's New Samba Jazz Directions (Zoho) here.
JazzWax clip: Here's Ceu E Mar from New Samba Jazz Directions...