NEW-ORLEANS

meets

RIO

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Internationally renowned American jazz pianist Peter Martin joins master Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo for New Orleans Meets Rio de Janeiro – a unique engaging performance merging New Orleans style jazz piano with the bossa nova rhythms of Rio de Janeiro.  With New Orleans’ deep roots in Latin American music, this is a natural, yet progressive extension of the musical language.

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Peter & Romero discuss the project

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Live from Little Rock

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REVIEW: Little Rock, AR 1/29/15

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Martin, Lubambo jazz jam a mesmerizing mind meld

By Philip Martin

This article was published January 30, 2015 at 6:55 a.m.

At its best, jazz eludes capture and mechanical reproduction. It is a moment, a collaboration between players and listeners, irreducible to digital bytes or grooves cut in wax. At its best it is a communion of minds, a kind of telepathy between simpatico beings. With the best jazz, you always have to be there.

If you were there, you don’t need this review. If you weren’t, you missed the minor miracle of, well, let’s stipulate that South on Main made a near-perfect venue for pianist Peter Martin and his obvious friend, the Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo, reading each other’s minds on Thursday night.

Martin, who is from St. Louis, is a dynamic and assured pianist who seems to especially embody the rootsy idioms that spring from the Mississippi Delta. There is more than a hint of blues in his playing, his chording and rhythms suggest an erudite Professor Longhair student. He played South on Main once before, nearly a year ago. For his return engagement, he recruited Lubambo, who displayed a command not only of the bossa nova style of his predecessors Antonio Carlos Jobim and Marcos Valle, but of hard bop and swing.

And while both men are obviously technically accomplished, having played with the likes of Dianne Reeves, Michael Brecker, Yo-Yo Ma, Kathleen Battle, Diana Krall, Herbie Mann, Wynton Marsalis, Gal Costa, Kurt Elling and many others, the best moments of their show seemed revelatory both to the audience and the artists themselves.

While the set list they played through (not that they had a set list; they often conferred on what to attempt next) might seem predictable and programmatic in cold type — they started with Gershwin’s “Summertime,” moved on to a Jobim number, followed that up with Lubambo’s own “Bachio” (a thought experiment that seemed to imagine the adventures of Johann Sebastian in Recife), before sliding into a version of “Body and Soul” they had started working out during a workshop at the University of Central Arkansas they’d led earlier in the day — in practice it was a lively and at times joyous display of chops and attitude. Martin and Lubambo clear enjoy each other’s company and listen closely to each other, seamlessly handing melodic lines back and forth, each sliding around to support the other, so that at times it was difficult to tell exactly where the plucked nylon gave way to hammered steel.

Later Lubambo traded the hybrid classical guitar — it featured a cutaway to make the highest frets available — for an electric instrument and displayed his bluesier side. Martin had no trouble keeping up his end.

Sure, instrumental jazz isn’t for everyone; and maybe the recording of this concert (AETN cameras were there watching) mightn’t have the same energy as what passed through the live audience. But Martin’s crashing crescendos and Lubambo’s precise, Al Di Meola-fast runs up and down the neck were both virtuostic and emotionally satisfying. Maybe you had to be there. Those who were seemed happy enough.

Sheldon Concert Hall, St. Louis, MO

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Concert review: Romero Lubambo and Peter Martin bring Brazilian ballads and Louisiana licks to the Sheldon

On a cold winter’s night, the soothing sounds of Brazilian finger-style guitar and festive New Orleans jazz warmed up St. Louis as Peter Martin returned to the Sheldon with friend Romero Lubambo for a memorable merger of two different yet soulful flavors of music.

Martin and Lubambo were welcomed to the Sheldon Concert Hall with a hearty round of applause as they took their places on the American bandstand. Before the music began, the two introduced themselves and led a natural conversation that allowed the audience to get to know the duo. The guitarist, originally hailing from Rio de Janeiro, and the St. Louis native pianist, who spent much of his 20s soaking in the culture in New Orleans, have been long performing together, learning each other’s styles and teaching each other much more. The two told stories and cracked jokes at each other’s expense in a display of genuine connection that only two close friends can have — their banter had the audience laughing out loud. That feeling of connection became even more apparent as they began speaking with their other voices.

The concert opened with a fierce Brazilian jazz number composed by Lubambo himself. The reflection from the stage light off his guitar danced around the wall as he swayed with the energy of the song, totally enveloped in the music. Rapid fire finger picks plucked seamlessly up and down the neck of the guitar accompanied by the powerful sounds from the Steinway & Sons piano as the two artists fed off each other’s creative energy, trading glances and joyous expressions. Their synchronicity and vitality received roars of applause after every improvisational solo by Lubambo, who nonchalantly and calmly scratched his nose between parts. It seemed the audience let out a collective sigh from the adrenaline rush after the song reached its climax — and the night was only beginning.

While Lubambo brought his bossanova style from his homeland, Martin shared his love for New Orleans style jazz. The electric guitar replaced the acoustic for some commanding jazz licks that marked the change of scenery from the warm beaches of Rio de Janeiro to the party cove that is Bourbon Street. Martin rose and fell in his seat with the notes as he rediscovered his days living in the Big Easy, with many members of the audience doing the same in their seats. Through the jovial melody, one could almost imagine a colorful parade marching through the streets with confetti in the air and smiles on faces, celebrating the universal and uniting sounds of music. Lubambo’s strings were able to keep up with Martin’s keys with ease in a sound that very much contrasted its Brazilian counterpart, but at the same time shared its vivacious vibe.

The alternation between styles continued through the night, with more natural conversation and the two teasing each other in between. The night was highlighted by a tranquil number entitled “Song for Kaya” — inspired by the news of the birth of Lubambo’s niece that left a woman in the audience softly weeping — which featured a brilliant moment of improv and spontaneity when Martin began strumming the piano strings with a guitar pick for a flamenco-style guitar piece. A touching rendition of “In Your Own Sweet Way,” played in memoriam of the late great David Brubeck, offered another standout performance.

The two hour set seemed to go by much too quickly as the pair played their encore and took their final bows. The audience buzzed with excitement after the standing ovation as they filed out of the hall after such a display of musical mastery. It is not too often St. Louis gets the chance to see such a diverse pair of skilled musicians perform such a rich range of tunes, but Romero Lubambo and Peter Martin delivered.

Peter Martin’s artistry is nothing short of extraordinary. To sing with him is sublime – To listen to him play is a transcendent experience.

Dianne Reeves

Guitarist Romero Lubambo may be the best practitioner of his craft in the world today… [his] facility, creativity and energy are in a class all their own.

Jazziz Magazine

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Photo Credit: Jeff Smithwick