Sambrasa Trio - Em som maior (1965), 7/10

The definitive samba-jazz album outside of the pop sphere, Em som maior proudly displays the remarkable talents of the Sambrasa Trio as Pascoal, Clayber, and Moreira display true technical mastery fueled by genuine passion and exceptional feeling via interplay. Some tracks are practically flawless and mesmerizing, some only suffer from the commonly overutilized tropes of budding jazz artists in the form of overindulgent solos and thematically faltering during climaxes in energy. By and large the trio show a surprising maturity and focus, however, so these moments are fortunately sporadic and inconsistent. “Samba Novo” for example uses a tasteful application of solo work and individual flourishes to make the melody even more impactful and substantial before the beautifully dramatic close of the song accentuated beautifully by Pascoal’s masterful piano playing. The technicality on display does not come across as forced, rather it feels like a natural decoration of the samba style, an uplifting iteration of jazz that leans into its inherent energy and melodic dance for much of its meaning. The combination of jazz with the Brazilian samba beats makes these charged tracks stand out, yet a mellow song like “Duas Contas” works equally as well, especially when transitioned fluidly into “Nem o Mar Sabia” that uses the Brazilian style just as effectively as the outstanding opener or the driving “Samba novo”. The offbeat individuality from Pascoal can again be heard during this track and is furthered by its juxtaposition against Moreira’s technically tight percussion work. The eccentric rhythm from the outstanding “Arrastão" make it one of the most immediately grabbing songs, especially for its charged breaks, but this is the first major instance of indulgent solo work that halts much of the torrential momentum from its first half. It is not entirely distasteful, especially when Pascoal and Moreira accent Clayber’s solo, for instance, but these briefly halt an otherwise remarkably beautiful set of performances and a practically flawless composition. Fortunately, the rest of these songs are just as consistently energetic, tightly performed, and generally moving in comparison to the blistering first half, only very briefly stinted by this inclination for fruitless exhibition with some exceptions such as the percussion solo from “João sem braço” that is perfectly timed, paced, and supplanted within the existing melody. Then a thematic shift during “Lamento Nortista” provides a perfectly timed tangential exploration with new textures and rhythms to accent another beautifully written melody. Em som maior is an exceptional jazz album outside of the confines of the samba sub-genre and exemplifies everything that makes this union gratifyingly elegant and charming.