Pereira’s Blindfold Test Presents Visions for Rhythm


VISIONS FOR RHYTHM / MOREIRA: Misturada. PEREIRA: Ponto de Partida. O Que Ficou. De Volta à Festa. Vision for Rhythm. FERRAGUTTI: Chapéu Palheta. PLAUT: Mercado Modelo. LAURIA: The Cry and the Smile.* ADOLFO: Partido Leve. POBO: Corrupião . SINGH: Les Matins de Rixensart.* FREITAS: Alma Brasiliera* / Blindfold Test: Rodrigo Ursaia, t-sax; Susan Pereira, voc/perc; Jorge Continentino, fl/pifano/t-sax; Deanna Witkowki, pno; Paul Meyers, gtr; Gustavo Amarante, *Itaiguara Brandão, el-bs; Vanderlei Pereira, dm/perc / Jazzheads JH1242

One interesting fact about Vanderlei Pereira is that he is legally blind. A victim of inherited retinitis pigmentosa, he began his career as a classical percussionist but eventually had to give up that career as his vision deteriorated, going into jazz where he was not required to read scores. This explains his startlingly advanced technique, one of the finest I’ve ever heard from a jazz percussionist

You shouldn’t let the title of this album fool you. Vanderlei Pereira’s “Visions for Rhythm” aren’t different in any significant way from the visions of rhythm performed by most Latin-inspired bands since the 1940s. The principal differences here are two: first, that Pereira is, in my view, a first-class drummer, in fact much more versatile and interesting than the late Tito Puente, and two, that he has concocted here an updated version of Sergio Mendes’ Brazil ’66 band. Pereira calls this band Blindfold Test. Maybe he wanted his older listeners to think they were listening to ’60s Brazilian jazz.

By this I mean that Pereira has wedded a female singing voice to scat in unison with whatever instrument is playing the melody lead in the first and ensuing choruses (generally the flute) while keeping the rhythm section cooking almost constantly with an infectious beat. The difference between the two bands is that, as a primarily pop-oriented group, Brazil ’66 kept solos to a minimum, usually by Mendes himself on piano, whereas in this group Pereira allows plenty of solo room for his very talented band, of which, believe it or not, guitarist Paul Meyers is a particular standout.

I have complained loudly and long in my reviews about the preponderance of screaming, whiny electric rock guitar playing in jazz groups. The style is incongruous and it wears on my nerves. But Meyers is one of those rare guitarists nowadays who not only plays an acoustic instrument, but plays it with drive and zest as well as invention. Don’t get me wrong. Pianist Deanna Witkowski is very fine but not particularly individual, and although Jorge Continentino and Rodrigo Ursaia are lithe, inventive saxists who to a certain extent emulate Stan Getz in his Latin-based recordings, Meyers’ solos were, for me, one of the highlights of this album.

But this is one of those rare jazz CDs where the sum of the whole is greater than the parts. Indeed, I would say that if there is an innovation here it is in what I would call “total band integration.” For all the delight the solos bring, the overall impression one gets is of the swirling, whirling whole, almost as if, from the downbeat to the close of each number, the entire band gets up and dances. In addition, these are for the most part very catchy numbers; were there such a thing nowadays as AM pop radio, I could well imagine Chapéu Palheta [Straw Hat] hitting the top ten on the singles chart and staying there for a couple of weeks. Despite all the variations played by the jazz soloists, the catchy tune just keeps on going and going and stays in your mind after the record is over. Other tracks, such as O Que Ficou, are a little less pop-oriented and a bit more jazz-leaning, yet still catchy enough to be included on the “album version” (remember those?) of Chapéu Palheta—maybe even its flip side on the 45. Pereira plays superb backbeats on The Cry and the Smile.

This is the kind of album that I consider ideal for summertime listening, when the days are hot and draggy and you just want to lay back and do nothing, sipping an iced tea with lemon. Well recommended for what it is.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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