With his new album Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro-based pianist David Feldman has fully come into his own as a composer artfully extending the samba jazz tradition. Feldman introduces his superlative working trio with bassist André Vasconcellos and drummer Márcio Bahia, and welcomes two very special guests to the proceedings, the legendary guitarist/composer Toninho Horta and the brilliant trombonist Raul de Souza. Horizonte will be released by Feldman's imprint, David Feldman Music, on March 10.
"This album blurs the boundaries," Feldman says. "I'm trying to incorporate song forms into this language that's called samba jazz. But my music is going somewhere else and I don't know if we have a label for it yet. It's Brazilian and it's jazz, but not straight-ahead samba jazz."
The great bossa nova vocalist Rosa Passos calls Horizonte "one of the best CDs of Brazillian instrumental music that has been released in the last 10 years." And composer Ivan Lins asserts that "hearing this music leaves in my soul a confirmation that the new generation that is making quality music today . . . will continue to keep up the beautiful reputation of Brazilian music."
While Feldman focuses on his original compositions on the new CD, he includes three tunes by other artists. Horizonte opens with a fleet version of Oscar Castro-Neves's "Chora Tua Tristeza" and closes with a rhapsodic reading of Johnny Alf's "Céu e Mar," a standard from an earlier era. Toninho Horta's gorgeous "Soccer Ball" is the album's only quintet track. "You can't have Toninho on your album and not have him playing one of his songs," says Feldman.
The leader's original pieces reflect a refined and supremely lyrical sensibility gleaned from deep listening and study of Brazilian and American masters. Among the album's numerous highlights, his "Adeus" stands out as the tune most likely to be picked up by fellow artists, with its graceful waltz feel and sumptuous melody. Horta is featured on the ballad "Tetê," and de Souza on the supple samba jazz of "Sliding Ways."
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1977, David Feldman grew up in a family immersed in European classical music. He started piano studies at four, and within a few years he began resisting the expectation that he should play only what was written on the page, preferring to elaborate on the score. Introduced to jazz by Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso," he sought out teachers versed in improvisation, eventually studying with Luiz Eça, the pianist from the pioneering Tamba Trio (and composer of the standard "The Dolphin").
Feldman eventually enrolled at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, graduating in 2002. While in New York he played with veteran masters like Slide Hampton, sat in with the Mingus Big Band, and performed with outstanding young musicians such as Matt Garrison and Eli Degibri. He forged particularly close ties with samba jazz pioneers Claudio Roditi and Duduka da Fonseca, appearing on three of the drummer's recent albums.
"Duduka is a great influence on me," says Feldman, who continues to work with da Fonseca, performing in his trio and hiring him for trio gigs in New York. "I'd go to Duduka's place and he'd tell me stories about bossa nova. It's a style that feels very natural for me to play. Duduka introduced me to Claudio, another musician I admire a lot. They gave me this injection of samba jazz."
A semi-finalist in the Montreux Jazz Festival's 2004 Solo Piano Competition, Feldman has thrived since moving back to Rio. He's performed widely at jazz festivals at home and abroad, maintained a steady presence in New York City, and released his critically hailed debut album in 2009. Featuring bassist Sérgio Barroso and drummer Paulo Braga, O Som do Beco das Garrafas is an homage to the musicians who forged the bossa nova sound in Bottles Alley, and focuses on well- known Brazilian standards by composers like Johnny Alf, João Donato, Carlos Lyra, and Jobim. He followed up in 2014 with the solo Piano, a project that showcases his keyboard command.
"My thing is jazz and improvisation," he says. "The new album isn't about the pianism. I try to think like a movie director, always looking at the bigger picture, but I'm always thinking about bringing people into the music. I like things to sound simple, but with a lot of hidden complexity."