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According to producer Joel Dorn, customer requests have been staggering for the reissue of Brazilian percussionist Dom Um Romao’s two Muse titles which were both culled from sessions in June and November of 1973. Now available on one compact disc, The Complete Muse Recordings contains the sum total of the original albums Dom Um Romao and Spirit of the Times and as documents of a particularly fruitful period for Brazilian music they are invaluable. Way before the term "world music" was even coined, Romao was skirting the boundaries between Brazilian and jazz styles through his work with Jobim, Sergio Mendes, Herbie Mann, and Oscar Brown. At the time of these Muse dates, Romao was working with Weather Report and his own music was seeking a new plateau where the breezy lilt of the bossa nova would give way to a more assertive hybrid, a mixing of samba street rhythms with the rock and fusion elements being explored here in the States.
The more divergent of the two records, Dom’s self-titled set explores a rich tapestry of moods and hints at his many influences. For starters, there’s two modern Brazilian standards included in the guise of Milton Nascimento’s "Cravo E Canela" and Edu Lobo’s "Ponteio." "Family Talk" features some lovely flute work and crisp harpsichord provided by Joao Donato for a feel very much akin to Jobim’s late ‘60s sessions for A&M/CTI. The centerpiece is clearly the one-man show Romao puts on for "Braun-Blek-Blu," where multi-tracking allows him to become his own samba section complete with surdo, cuica, tamborim, caxixi, and the like. It’s quite an impressive display and in a way it would foreshadow subsequent and similar-minded efforts during the ‘70s from Airto (a student of Romao’s) and the group Oba.
For Spirit of the Times Romao contributes two more stunning percussion monologues, "Ginga Gingou" and "Cosinha." As he states in Robert Palmer’s expertly-penned liners, the street music of Brazil as practiced by the samba schools (not schools per se, but groups of percussionists) is really reflective of the African influence on the blacks of Brazil. Short of making your own field recordings during carnival time in Rio, Romao's recreations celebrate a festive spirit that's the next best thing. There’s a more organic feel throughout to these selections too, although electronic elements, such as Joe Beck’s wah-wah guitar, fit tastefully into the mix.
Acting as a worthy microcosm of Brazilian fusion from the ‘70s, these recordings should serve the uninitiated well in that they’re meaty but undeniably tuneful and enticing. Following on the heels of a recent renaissance in Brazilian music, particularly overseas and in Japan, Romao's Muse recordings have aged well and will be sure to please those individuals with a taste for the exotic and an open mind.
Track Listing: Dom's Tune, Cravo E Canela, Family Talk, Ponteio, Braun-Blek-Blu, Adeus Maria Fulo, Ginga Gingou, Wait on the Corner, Lamento Negro, Highway, The Angels, The Salvation Army, Cosinha
Personnel: Dom Um Romao- percussion & drums, Sivuca- organ, piano & guitar, Jerry Dodgion- alto sax & flute, Mauricio Smith- woodwinds, Lloyd McNeil- flute, William Campbell Jr.- trumpet, Jimmy Bossey- trombone, Joe Beck- guitar, Amauri Tristao- acoustic guitar, Joao Donato- harpsichord & piano, Dom Salvador- electric piano & piano, Richard Kimball- synthesizer, Stanley Clarke- bass, Frank Tusa- bass, Eric Gravatt- congas, Portintio- various percussion