Copa Village “album of the Week”, by Chip Boaz – LJC

Carol Saboya, Antonio Adolfo, & Hendrik Muerkens
For most musicians, collaboration is a balancing act that requires a fair exchange of musical priorities. When we’re initially learning to play our instrument, we’re largely focusing upon expanding our own skill set, remaining purely focused upon our own growth. Music is an inherently social art form though, and when we move into ensembles, we quickly loose that sense of self focus for the greater good. Once a musician matures, they need to turn that focus inward again, searching for a distinct and personal artistic vision that defines them as an individual. After years of personal growth, collaboration isn’t necessarily difficult, but it becomes a selfless negotiation of identity. While an individual may have prioritized certain aspects of their musicality on their own, their decisions may conflict with their collaborators. At this point, the success of the collaboration relies upon everyone finding a comfort level with both their contributions and concessions. On Copa Village, pianist Antonio Adolfo, vocalist Carol Saboya, and harmonica player Hendrik Muerkens – three leading voices in Brazilian Jazz – easily find a smooth common ground, as they deliver a wonderful set of original compositions and traditional standards with beauty and grace.

Interpreting Compositions From Adolfo
Well known for his compositional contributions to Brazilian popular music, Adolfo contributes several songs to the recording. There’s a joyful vibe behind Saboya’s performance of the English vocal on “Pretty World," propelled by an energetic samba groove from the rhythm section. Muerkens crafts a smart solo that sticks closely to the song’s uplifting harmony, recalling the melody without repeating it. Saboya’s return to the main theme demonstrates the vocalist’s symbiotic relationship with the rhythm section, bringing them to life through her performance’s rhythmic clarity. Claudio Spiewak’s guitar supports Muerkens’ harmonica in an energetic melody on “Copa Village," which gains quite a bit of depth from a bridge harmonized by Saboya’s scat and Adolfo’s colorful piano voicings. Adolfo grabs the song’s catchy main theme and twists it around a number of melodic variations that perfectly capture the song’s bouyant spirit. Muerkens emphasizes rhythmic phrasing in his statement, bouncing melodies around the groove, while Spiewak leans towards a more lyrical approach over vast open chords. “Visão" opens with a rubato interpretation of the main theme from Muerkens, followed by a gorgeously lilting version of the melody scatted by Saboya. Adolfo gently finds his way into his improvisation, blending pieces of the melody into a larger lyrical statement that gracefully moves through the harmony. Coming out of thin air, Muerkens quickly cuts through the wide texture with a solo that boldly hits rhythmic edges and includes enough melodic motion to provide a stand apart with a sense of contrast. Each of these songs resonate with Adolfo’s distinct approach to harmony and melody, providing fertile ground for interesting improvisatory statements from Muerkens and lush vocal performances from Saboya.

Finding Common Ground In The Music Of Jobim
The three musicians lean towards familiar music on several tracks, combining their shared experience to interpret the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Wide open chords from Adolfo float above a steady rhythmic pulse from percussionist André Siqueira, inserting a distinctly minor mood underneath Saboya’s vocal on “The Girl From Ipanema." Drummer Adriano Santos and bassist Itaiguara Brandão burst into a lively bossa nova groove behind a cleverly crafted harmonica solo from Muerkens, who walks the line between the standard chord changes and Adolfo’s re-harmonization. The etherial combination of minor harmonies and drifting time returns as Saboya slips into Puertoguese for a masterful performance of the original lyric that invokes Astrud Gilberto from a different perspective. A simmering samba groove supports Saboya’s masterfully understated melody on “O Boto," providing a stark contrast to the dynamic leap of the bridge. Adolfo captures the calm intensity of the song with running melodies, clever phrasing, and harmonic color that builds into a memorable solo. There’s a high amount of interplay around Saboya’s return to the melody, with improvised commentary from Muerkens, Spiewak, and Adolfo helping take the track to a climatic ending. Saboya’s scat blends beautifully with Muerkens’ harmonica on the driving samba intro to Jobim’s “Agua de Beber," leading into an expert rendition of the lyric from Saboya, filled with enthusiastic familiarity. Muerkens’ improvisation cleverly winds through the chords with a unique insight, touching upon less expected notes and then building them into a beautifully lyrical idea. Adolfo refers to the melody in a coy way that’s both familiar and new, creating an attention grabbing variation filled with personality. Adolfo and Spiewak create a distinct mood with rich chordal textures and plenty of space, opening the door for Saboya to deliver an introspective and captivating vocal on “Pois É." Santos and Brandão jump into the mix with a gentle bossa nova groove behind Muerkens’ solo, a lyrical statement that flies over the harmony with ascending melodies, repeated themes, and a light rhythmic edge. Saboya returns to the main theme over a thicker band texture, leading into a subdued exchange between vocal riffing and Muerkens’ lively improvised interjections. The rhythm section introduces Jobim’s “Two Kites," with an ascending series of unison hits before Saboya masterfully navigates the quick rhythms of the melody. As Spiewak keeps a driving rhythmic comping pattern, Muerkens cleverly exchanges embellished bits of melody with Saboya’s vocal, leading into his main solo. The harmonica player builds a statement that turns pieces of the melody into fresh ideas that puts a new spin on the song as Saboya returns to the melody. These familiar songs provide the perfect meeting point for Adolfo, Saboya, and Muerkens, letting them explore their combined musicality on well-known common ground.

Collaborating On Muerkens’ Compositions
A long time leader in his own right, Muerkens also brings several songs to the session, bringing his compositional voice into the recording. Syncopated chordal attacks lead the band charging into a driving samba behind Saboya’s inspired vocal on “Show de Bola." Moving to vibes, Muerkens uses the percussive quality of the instrument to his advantage, attacking smartly crafted melodies with an engaging intensity. As Saboya returns to the melody, she displays her captivating way of navigating jazz melodies while riding samba’s forward motion. Muerkens spins a reflective melody over wide open spaces on “Como Se Fosse," leading into a engagingly moody reading of the lyric from Saboya. The rhythm section provides some motion behind Adolfo’s solo, which he grabs immediately, pushing arppeggios and lyrical phrases around important accent points. As Muerkens jumps into his improvisation with a repeated rhythmic idea, the musicians jump into a medium tempo samba, letting the harmonica player fly through the chord changes with a driving momentum. A collection of well timed chords give Saboya’s vocal a floating feeling on “Nosso Mundo," until Santos and Brandão charge into samba groove that inspires a rhythmic edge in Saboya’s performance. Muerkens attacks his improvisation with an inspired emotion, exploring the harmony with long notes before flying into a flurry of racing runs. While the band briefly returns to the a more open setting, there’s a excited motion behind their return to the main theme that adds an engaging sense of swing as they bring the song to a close. The presence of several Muerkens compositions lets the harmonica player step out from the exclusive role of soloist, while his collaborators put their own spin on his music.

Three Masters Delivering A Memorable Collaboration
In the past, Adolfo, Saboya, and Muerkens have each made valuable contributions to the art of Brazilian Jazz, and on Copa Village, they prove that the power of collaboration can take things a step further. Throughout the album, there’s a seamless sense of unity focused upon the greater goal of delivering beautiful music. As father and daughter, Adolfo and Saboya have a lifetime of collaboration behind them, which leads to a comfortable blend, both musically and conceptually. The interesting piece comes from the way that these two musicians work so smoothly with Muerkens. The harmonica player has carved out his own distinctive approach to Brazilian music and jazz, which many times, has been quite different from the way that Adolfo or Saboya have played the music. In the spirit of collaboration, each artist has kept or deleted certain elements from their performance, resulting in a wonderful musical outcome. For the most part, Adolfo steps out of the soloist role, handing that responsibility to Muerkens, who gets ample solo space. While both Adolfo and Muerkens contribute original compositions, the arrangements and performance approach reflect Adolfo’s touch, placing Muerkens in a new context. Saboya serves as the glue throughout the album, consistently framing each song with her natural connection to the music, gorgeous vocal tone, and entrancing phrasing. There’s plenty of support from Spiewak, Santos, Siqueira, and Brandão, making sure that each track has a swinging foundation. The combination of Adolfo, Saboya, and Muerkens shines on Copa Village, as three masters deliver a memorable collaboration overflowing with joy, musicality, and mutual admiration.

Track Listing:
1. The Girl From Ipanema/Garota De Ipanema (Antonio Carlos Jobim, Vinícius De Moraes, Norman Gimbel)
2. Copa Village (Antonio Adolfo, Hendrik Meurkens)
3. Show De Bola (Hendrik Meurkens, Paulo Sergio Valle)
4. O Boto (Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jararaca)
5. Como Se Fosse (Hendrik Meurkens, Ana Terra)
6. Agua De Beber (Antonio Carlos Jobim, Vinícius De Moraes)
7. Pois É (Antonio Carlos Jobim, Chico Buarque)
8. Pretty World (Antonio Adolfo, Tiberio Gasper, Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman)
9. Two Kites (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
10. Nosso Mundo (Hendrik Meurkens, Ana Terra)
11. Visão (Antonio Adolfo, Tiberio Gasper)
- See more at: