The Vinyl Anachronist weighs in on Flavio Lira’s Coffee Gold Sugar Cane

THE VINYL ANACHRONIST
by Marc Phillips

Wednesday, November 7, 2018
Flavio Lira’s Coffee Gold Sugar Cane

With a title like Coffee Gold Sugar Cane, I keep thinking that bassist Flavio Lira has forgotten to include something about Cuban cigars. That’s just me, of course, since he’s included everything else in his new album–most notably a fusion of Brazilian, Colombian and Cuban jazz styles which are wrapped up in a sleek, modern veneer. Lira has been living and playing in New York City and Boston for many years, but his Brazilian roots are obvious in this album and it’s clear that he’s paying tribute to all of the wonderful music that has influenced him throughout his life.

As a bassist, it’s interesting to see how Lira propels his arrangements into such an exciting overall sound. I’ve heard similar albums that are led by drummers or horn players, and it’s remarkably clear who’s leading the band. Lira is a fantastic bassist, quick and always searching for the most musical note, but his arrangements include such a diverse cast of performers that you suddenly realize it’s not all about him. Just look at the diverse instrumentation in this mix of originals and standards: pandeiro, caxixi, cajon, kanjira, tantan, repique de mao, surdo, cavaco and bambo leguero jump right in with all types of electronic keyboards, horns, woodwinds and vibes. You’d expect a lot of percussion with this type of jazz, but it’s obvious Lira wants to introduce you to all these exotic sounds and love them as much as he does.

If it seems like this album might be a little busy, it’s not. Everyone isn’t playing at the same time, after all. Lira is judicious in the way he populates each arrangement, and that results in a very warm yet focused sound. Yes, that also means he’s able to freely explore all these genres and bring a multitude of different flavors to the table. He succeeds because he’s so in tune with the folk traditions of each type of jazz, even if he’s placing them in contemporary contexts.

What really makes Coffee Gold Sugar Cane stand out from other Latin and Caribbean jazz albums is the supreme sense of love that seems to flow through the tracks. These jazz genres are usually happy affairs, full of joy and a vivacious sense of celebration. You can imagine everyone smiling as they play. But Lira is doing something beyond that–he’s sharing the ideas and memories that make him happy, and he’s gathered his best friends, people who are a big part of his life outside the studios and stages, and he’s suddenly turned to you and invited you to join. If you decide to bring some Cuban cigars along for the others, that’s up to you.

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