Bossalingo
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Bossalingo

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | SELF | AFM

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | SELF | AFM
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"Capital Bop 2011 Blues Alley DC"

By Ken Avis - CapitalBop contributor

Bossalingo
Blues Alley
Monday, Nov. 7, 2011

Any musician will tell you that naming a band is a challenge. But D.C.-based Bossalingo suffers from a slightly different predicament: Having settled years ago on a pithy moniker, the group’s ever-expanding repertoire may have now outgrown it.

Bossalingo began in the mid-1990s, playing the classic songs of Brazilian composers such as Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá and delighting audiences with regular gigs at U Street’s Chi Cha Lounge. But after a five-year layoff, things seem to have changed. At the Nov. 7 release show for their new CD, Steps Beyond, the group took listeners at Blues Alley on a Pan-American tour of Latin rhythms that went well beyond the boundaries of its Brazil-focused name.

Bossalingo’s core musicians were augmented at this performance by New York-based pianist Arturo O’Farrill, founder and director of the Grammy Award-winning Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. The driving rhythms of this modern master’s playing complemented the arrangements, adding a perceptible groove to the music.

Opening the set with an original composition, “The Cat’s on Sugar Mountain,” bandleader, composer and guitarist Michael Joseph Harris’s playing reflected Latin, jazz, folk and rock influences. Throughout the night, his nylon-string acoustic guitar work would prove inventive and melodic, and his guitar solo on the opener was tinged with blues. Later, on “Honest Journey,” his solo included passages reminiscent of both George Benson and John McLaughlin – unexpected contrasts packed into a single tune.

The band’s original rhythm section, which played only the first half of the set, provided a cohesive foundation. Bassist Eric Leifert provided fluidity and direction to the arrangements, while leaving space for drummer Tom Barrick’s ornamentation. With percussionist Alfredo Mojica adding accents on a varied assemblage of instruments, the band was quick to pick up on Arturo’s cues and surf the grooves he often initiated, most noticeably on a tango-esque rendition of John Lewis’s “Django.”

Bossalingo’s “Across the Universe” remained faithful to the melancholic John Lennon melody before broadening into a gospel-funk jam. Michael switched to steel-string acoustic for this song; it’s an instrument rarely seen at Blues Alley, but in the context of a Beatles song, why not? If only Billy Preston could have been there to add a swirling Hammond at the end.

The hypnotic ballad “Toninio Saves the Rain” and “Django” closed the first half of the set before the new rhythm section – brothers Alejandro and Leonardo Lucini of the locally based band Origem – brought a fresh emphasis. Leonardo manned the bass, while Alejandro saddled up behind the drum kit.

The brothers, along with Alfredo on percussion, exuded pure joy as they jumped on the moving train provided by O’Farrill’s Cuban themes in “Respira Profundo.” The energy continued in the unlikely “Pure Imagination” – yes, that song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The song moved from a flamenco feel into a bossa beat, until O’Farrill injected his unmistakable Cuban rhythm with high-energy piano.

Clifford Brown’s “Joyspring” was a fitting finale: an unrestrained tour-de-force and an enticing taste of what the band has to offer in the future, particularly as they play more shows together and iron out occasional uncertainties.

A good proportion of the sizable audience consisted of old fans from the group’s previous tenure. Bossalingo met their expectations, delivering the goods with virtuosity, lyricism and energy. Blues Alley is to be congratulated for opening its stage to local musicians and, once again, it was made clear that D.C.-area players can bring out an audience and meet the performance standards of this national jazz club. - Capital Bop


"CD Review"

"It shouldn't be surprising that the Washington, DC area, home to Felix Grant and Charlie Byrd, the two men who helped introduce Brazilian music to a wide audience in this country, should produce a group like Bossalingo. What is surprising is that players so young should have such a strong feeling for this music. They sound like they've been playing it all their lives. And what's even more surprising are the arrangements and improvising...This record is truly a pleasant surprise!"

- Tom Cole, WPFW & NPR

- Tom Cole/NPR WPFW


"Michael Harris performance review"

"Michael Harris’ improvisations are intelligent explorations of new melodies spun out over often familiar chord changes."

- Alan Greenblatt, The Washington Post

- The Washington Post


"CD Review"

"Bossalingo is one of the best local releases in recent years."

- Eric Brace, The Washington Post

- The Washington Post


Discography

Bossalingo Steps Beyond
Bossalingo Reprise
Bossalingo

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Bio

Inspired by the sounds and rhythms of Argentina, Cuba and Brazil, Bossalingo performs their original music with passion, using the common language of Jazz improvisation to unite all of these amazing styles into an unforgettable experience for the listener. The current line up features either Arturo O'Farrill or Didier Prossaird on piano, upright bassist Jake Leckie, drummer Mike Kuhl, percussionist Alfredo Mojica, and composer/guitarist Michael Joseph Harris. The group is currently performing selections from the recent Bossalingo release, Steps Beyond as well as some earlier originals from the first record. The styles of Tango, Jazz, Rumba, Samba, Milongo, Bossa, Tumbao, and Guaguanco rhythms are featured throughout the show.