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Playful Heart by Oscar Castro-Neves

For those of you who are not familiar with Oscar Castro Neves, he has been actively involved in professional music since 1956, and came to the USA in 1962. Oscar is an excellent acoustic guitar player and was one of the founding figures in the bossa nova movement. Oscar has toured alongside Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, and was a featured guitarist with Sergio Mendez’ Brazil 66. Most recently, Oscar composed and performed the music for the Julia Louis-Dreyfus TV series "Watching Ellie" on NBC. Oscar could be considered a legend in his genre, and his talent has already been proven during his long career.

"Playful Heart" is his seventh solo recording, and shows his talents as an arranger, guitarist, vocalist, and producer. All lyrics are not in English, but a majority of them are. The thirteen tracks clock in at a total time of just over 55 minutes.

The disc opens with nice acoustic guitar and Oscar’s voice, with light percussion in the background. Our opening track is the familiar "Waters of March", and it opens a nice pleasant feel in a very Brazilian jazz samba.

The disc continues bringing us a variety of classic standards, smooth jazz, bossa nova, and samba music, all with a unique feel to it.

"Groovin’ high/ whispering" is a great combination of the Charlie Parker tune and a swing standard. It settles us into the instrumental mode of the disc, and also introduces the harmonica of Toots Thielemans. The drums of Carlos del Rosario and the bass guitar hold down the samba feel while Oscar and Toots handle the lead parts.

"Watch What Happens" brings us the smooth saxophone of Gary Meek, while Oscar’s guitar work is providing a nice smooth duet to Gary’s work. This is very much a laid back tune with a slow bossa nova feel, which gave me a feeling of a sunset at a beach cabana.

"Manha de Carnaval/Prelude #3" is a classical flavored piece with the violin talents of Charlie Bisharat. This piece fits nicely into the overall mood, as it takes you to a more romantic point. Very quiet and excellent performance. I was captivated.

"Four Brothers" is back to an upbeat samba feel with the woodwind talents of Gary Meek featured. Oscar comes to the forefront at just the right points. My only complaint is with the keyboard patch used. In my opinion, the patch is just a bit odd sounding, but I suspect it’s exactly what Oscar wanted.

"The Fool On The Hill" is the Lennon/McCartney tune, and Oscar gives it his own stamp. Oscar carries the melody on the acoustic guitar, while also having a nice acoustic guitar rhythm in the background. He does share some of the lead with Gary Meek, and occasionally added a touch of a vocal part. Soft and smooth.

"Send In The Clowns" is the traditional Stephen Sondheim tune and starts off with solo acoustic guitar. After this nice solo performance, the band enters in and we get the added woodwind lead. The Piano of Don Grusin grabbed my attention on this selection. Very nice, and I found Oscar breathing life into an old and tired song.

"Twenty Year Love Affair" is an Oscar composition, and has a slow samba feel to it. This has some excellent violin work by Charlie Bisharat. There’s nothing wrong here. This tune leads nicely into "Wave" which features some tasty piano work from Don Grusin.

Overall, this is a great disc for the fan of Brazilian jazz. "Playful Heart" has a wide variety of textures to it, and I found this to be a truly enjoyable listen. Thanks Oscar for sharing your talents with the world.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Oscar Castro-Neves
  • CD Title: Playful Heart
  • Genre: Brazilian Jazz / Brazilian Pop Jazz
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Mack Avenue Records
  • Rating: Five Stars
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