So I finally made it to one of the snazzy no-longer-new Jazz at Lincoln Center venues (which is not located at Lincoln Center, something worth pointing out if you’re taking a cab) — Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. The club seats 140, and like it’s sister venue, the roughly 450-seat amphitheater-style Allen Room, has dramatic picture-window views of Columbus Circle and midtown. (The approximately 1,200-seat Rose Theatre offers no street views.) The music was Trio da Paz, the esteemed trio of Brazilian expats Romero Lubambo on guitar, Nilson Matta on bass, and Duduka da Fonseca on drums. These three players — all in-demand session men — have been regulars on the New York scene since moving there in 1985. For their weekend at Dizzy’s, they added tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, vibist Joe Locke, and singer Maucha Adnet — all regular collaborators.
It’s easy to take jazz samba and bossa nova for granted as a loungey ’60s phenomenon — swinging cocktail music. But those who follow Boston’s vibrant Brazilian music scene know otherwise, and Trio da Paz are another example of how compelling this music is when played at such a high level. Part of what makes it work is that within moments of establishing a samba beat, the band moves into jazz territory, with extended harmonies and improvisations that go well beyond the confines of pop-song structure. So Lubambo’s “Bachião” was based on a Bach Prelude, but deploys the northern Brazilian baião rhythm. Even when Lubambo was playing his flashiest runs, he and the band never lost a grasp of the tune’s earthy folkloric dance core. Something Bach might have appreciated.
The jazz connections were reinforced when Locke and Allen came out for da Fonseca’s “Donna Maria” and Locke quoted Dizzy Gillespie’s “Bebop” in his solo. The presence of the warm-toned Allen was a deliberate allusion to samba-jazz popularizer Stan Getz (the show was titled “The Music of Jobim and Getz”). But — despite the similarities in tone and attack — Allen went his own way. Mauchet closed the circle, as someone who toured as part of Jobim’s band (she also happens to be married to da Fonseca). She delivered the expected “Waters of March” (“Águas de Março”) and “One Note Samba,” the latter at a breathless tempo.
There were other originals and standards, including Milton Nascimento’s “Vera Cruz,” with its tense central riff. The varied tempos, textures, and instrumentation made for a fast 90-minute set, and so did the band’s easy virtuosity. (Sometimes all it takes to get a savvy crowd whooping is an inventive twist at the top of the chorus — not an unwarranted reaction.)
As for Dizzy’s, besides that NYC skyline glamour, there was a full menu of southern-style specialties that were just special enough without being pretentious (very nice shrimp and grits that the kitchen doesn’t inflate with $5 of shaved truffles, and hush puppies that have a nice grainy texture, good oniony-herb flavor, and are not greasy). The staff was predominantly African-American (also good to see at a jazz club). And when one over-enthusiastic fan’s disruptive shouting earned Lubambo’s ire, he was escorted out. Harsh. But Lubambo had a point: a Bach Prelude shouldn’t be upstaged by someone in the audience.