Felipe Salles is a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil but lives and performs in New York. There has been a very real blending between jazz and various Brazilian genres over the last thirty years and Salles makes a major contribution to this. Yet the sound of his music is a long way from other such collaborations. This is no samba or bossa nova recording. In fact, many listeners may not be immediately aware of Salles' background. The reason is that he has brought his Brazilian sensibilities to bear in a very subtle way. This is New York music first and foremost. The Latin element is applied very sparingly. Salles himself writes about his style of jazz, "One may perhaps say that it is Latin or Brazilian, but I would rather prefer to avoid labeling." So if you are looking for something overtly Brazilian you might check out Airto Moreira's new release Life After That
. If you are looking for interesting and engaging jazz you will enjoy Mind Motions
. It is issued on the Fresh Sounds, New Talent
label. This describes Salles well, but not for long; he will belong on a major label very soon.
Salles presents us with nine original compositions that consist of abstract jazz lines leavened by a variety of shifting rhythmic figures, with propelling bass lines elaborated by Lehmann's drums and a variety of other percussion--congas, timbales, etc. This is always a stimulating background for soloists and Salles takes advantage of it to produce fresh and interesting solo work as do his sidemen, with trumpeter D'Aveni and pianist Michelin particularly outstanding. At times the group dynamics are evocative of Dave Holland's quintet, at others I found myself thinking of Andrew Hill or Kenny Dorham and Joe Henderson on Blue Note recordings. But these are fleeting moments - for the most part Salles is close to finding his own voice. His solo work, mostly on tenor but briefly on soprano, owes something Wayne Shorter but is moving in a different direction. It is his writing that really captures the attention, particularly as his solo work grows organically out of it. The best composers work simplify as they mature, working toward essences. Hopefully Salles will continue to work in this direction.
Jazz is said to be American classical music with an essential African core. This is certainly true but it has absorbed and is absorbing many other strands of influence. Brazilian music is one of the most significant of these and Felipe Salles demonstrates this very emphatically. He is an artist to watch.