While the band Circo is based in the U.S. (around University of North Texas in Denton, to be specific), they have embarked upon the mission of performing and promoting the music of Uruguay, and to an extent, Brazil. The inspiration for this music began with founder Lee Tomboulian’s purchase of Airto’s 70s albumFingers(a college favorite of mine too, I might add). The rhythm section of that band was made up of Uruguayans Hugo Fattoruso (keyboards), Jorge Fattoruso (drums) and Ringo Thielmann (bass), who went on to form their own trio called Opa, which recorded two albums that were also influential. The circle is completed here on Circo’s debutNorth/South Convergencewith Hugo Fattoruso’s input as the producer of this CD.
The CD is characterized by consistently interesting percussion, adventurous harmonies, and unpredictable, quirky melodies. The band moves effortlessly across time signatures, shifting from 4 to either 6 or 3. The melodies often feature varying pairs of instruments, which further add to the sonic interest. “Metropolis” is an especially intriguing composition, covering a lot of musical territory. Lee Tomboulian on piano and Pete Brewer on sax and flute contribute well-constructed solos in every rhythmic terrain. Both Tomboulian and bassist Brian Warthen understand that their instruments fulfill as rhythmic as well as harmonic role. Uruguay’s indigenous “condombe” rhythm, starting with three hand or stick drums and building layer upon layer, is heard at several points on the CD and forms the foundation for “Old 100th” (“Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”). This effectively segues into the CD’s closer, an unaccompanied vocal duet of Milton Nascimento’s beautiful “O Vendedor de Sonhos”.
This CD truly charts its own course throughout the program. It’s unique and creative, and certainly recommended.