When an painter approaches his canvas for the first time there is nothing before him but a blank space upon which to work. The same is true for a musician, when they approach their canvas, whether it be a guitar or a piano, there is nothing but a blank space before them. Picasso, for example, would take a splash of red, a dab of white and so on until what had been blank is covered in a spectrum of color and a vision that was known only to him has come to life. When you listen to the new recording of Oscar Castro-Neves, All One, you see the unique vision of the artist and hear the musical portrait of the man.
"Double Rainbow", the first track, was written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and is exuberant bossa nova number. "All One", the recording's title track is one of five numbers written by Castro-Neves, and it features him singing in his own unique style. Although he does not really consider himself a singer per se, he does enjoy it and feels that it fits in with his image of being a storyteller as well as a musician.
"Kurski Funk" is a combination of Latin and African-rooted influences. The song has a chorus of vocalist who add to the texture of the piece, which is also a salute to his days with the Paul Winter Consort. In fact Winter is one the co-authors of the song. "Morrer De Amor" , which translates into "To Die Of Love", has the most interesting story of all the numbers on this album. Written by Castro-Neves and entered into a song competition in Brazil, it lost to a song that has been long since forgotten. It was then recorded by Sarah Vaughan in 1965 and given a new title, "I Live To Love You", and it became an international hit and is one of the most requested songs, usually at weddings in Brazil. In fact whenever Castro-Neves plays the song in performance in Brazil it turns into a giant sing a long, such is the songs enduring popularity. This is the first time that Castro-Neves has ever recorded it.
In addition to his time with the Winter Consort, Castro-Neves spent time with Sergio Mendes's Brazil 66 from 1971 to 1981 and the song "Nao Me Diga Adeus" is done with a tip of the hat to that time. There are a couple of numbers that are new interpretations of material from two of the masters of jazz, Coltrane's "Naima", and Monk's "Round Midnight". Both have new life breathed into them by passing through the filter that is Oscar Castro-Neves.
Castro-Neves unique vocal style, which is done on a very personal level, low key and subdued, is again on display on "The Very Thought of You". The song is more of a conversation than really singing but is heart-felt and warm. As he has stated on several occasions, Tony Bennett is not going to be out of business any time soon because of me.
Because he is a "basket of influences" it should not really come as much of a surprise that another composer who gets credit here is none other than Frederic Chopin. Castro-Neves gives the song his own arrangement and it is transformed into a new version that becomes as much his as Chopin's. I think Frederic Chopin would be proud.
My favorite number closes out All One, "One Bad Habit" a funky, fun number that reflects the spirit of both the artist and his adopted hometown of Los Angeles. Originally written in the 1980's by Michael Franks, it also gets passed through the Castro-Neves filter and comes out in a new and refreshing way. Only the way Oscar Castro-Neves can do it, like the Picasso of song he is, it has a color and vibrancy all his own. All One is a musical portrait of an artist, an overview of a long a distinguished career and celebration of life and love all delivered by a master.