Vitor Gonçalves Quartet – Vitor Gonçalves Quartet (Sunnyside)
Pianist Vitor Gonçalves’ debut recording is a microcosm of New York City’s multicultural, hybrid jazz scene. A Brazilian expat, Gonçalves moved to the city in 2012 and enrolled in the Jazz Performance program at City College. His unique compositional style displays the influences of contemporary classical, avant-garde and free jazz, but he also dabbles in his country’s exuberant sonic palette. Comprising eight tracks that blur the line between experimentation and cerebral arrangements, Gonçalves’ first album benefits from elegant execution and richly nuanced performances by the pianist, longtime collaborator Todd Neufeld on guitar, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Dan Weiss.
The album opens with the somberly shaded “Sem Nome,” as Gonçalves’ sparse piano creates spaces for playful rhythmic moments and interweaving guitar. The parts coalesce in a rich fusion of harmonies, melodies and rhythmic intensity, all while preserving the track’s overall contemporary, contemplative mood. Earthy strands of avant-garde melodies and feral improvisations abound in “Cortelyou Road.” The track comes together courtesy of Neufeld’s trippy, pliable guitar lines, which are reminiscent of Brazilian psych-pop, and Weiss’ enveloping drums, which echo the tambor section of a carnaval bloco (street band) in northeastern Brazil.
On “Samba do Perdão,” Gonçalves deconstructs the Baden Powell original and re-creates the song within a fresh terrain of changing meters and harmonies. At the album’s midpoint, “Desleixada” is whimsically up-tempo and percussive, rounded out by Morgan’s full-bodied bass and Gonçalves’ lithe piano. “De Cazadero ao Recife” features a brisk meeting of the minds between scuffling drums and frenetic piano, anchored by bass and inspired by the urban frevo style of northeastern Brazil.
Gonçalves closes the set with “The Touch of Your Hand,” a beautifully stripped-down solo-piano piece he composed as a tribute to his wife. With luck, this debut offering forecasts more brilliant things to come from the pianist-composer.
— Lissette Corsa