The 13 cuts criss-cross the Northeastern musical stylings of forró, baião and xote while maintaining jazz sensibilties. Forró, because of its generous use of accordion, sounds like a combination of zydeco and reggae. It’s party music that is still heard on the lush beaches of Racife. In all three styles, the accent is on the two and the four, much like in a polka. The slowest of the three, xote is meant for slow dancing and is rooted in the German polka, the schottische.
Alma do Nordeste’s "Festa na Macuca" ("Party at the Macuca Farm"), an atypical baião in 7/4 rhythm, gets the party started. Neto had indulged in irregular rhythm on Roda’s first tune, the aptly named "Estrela do Mar" ("Starfish"), played in 5/4. Despite its odd time, "Festa" is unabashedly jaunty, and Jacob do Bandolim, if he was still alive, would have reveled in the cut’s tight, swift, melodic head.
Other energetic pieces include "Amoreira" ("Raspberry Vine"), Neto’s nod to legendary percussionist Airto Moreira, as well as "Alma do Nordeste" and "Forrô Vino." All three showcase the musicians’ organic musicality (it doesn’t come through as strongly on Roda) and ability to jam full throttle. The title cut is given tribal coloring with the inclusion of Tiago da Serrinha’s Brazilian bass drum, the zabumba, and his driving pandeiro (Brazilian tambourine), a mainstay in the choro form.
The most interesting xote is "Fulô Sertaneja" ("Flower from the Sertão"), which opens with Neto’s introspective, rubato piano. Marcelo Martins then joins him, offering a dose of sparse and soulful soprano sax. Martins’ playing is reminiscent of Bradford Marsalis’ on Requiem’s more somber tracks. Suprisingly, "Fulô" evolves into an admirable groove before it fades out.
If you want to listen to some classic forró, then throw on some Dominguinhos. However, if you’re looking for a CD that tries "not to recreate what had already been done so well by generations of great musicians from the Northeast," then take a ride with Neto and visit the multifarious musical landscapes that Alma do Nordeste explores.