Manfredo Fest | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Manfredo Fest 

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If you're presenting something called the Chicago Brazilian Jazz Festival--as the Green Mill will do this weekend for the seventh straight year--it's good to have an actual Chicago Brazilian or two on hand. Thus pianist Manfredo Fest, a native of Porto Alegre who spent a stretch in Chicago in the 1970s, returns for his annual visit, once again with a newly released CD. Just Jobim (DMP) joins the many other discs dedicated to the sizable songbook of Antonio Carlos Jobim, cocreator of bossa nova and patron saint of contemporary Brazilian music. Obviously a heartfelt gesture, the album is pleasant and at times incisive; but only occasionally, when Fest edges beyond the worshipful tone too often taken with Jobim's compositions, does it showcase the keyboardist doing what he does best. Fest has busy hands and an attack so hard it verges on brittle; on his own compositions, his solos can sound machine driven, the notes falling with the propulsive consistency of pistons in a well-tuned engine. Wisely he pulls back a bit when he plays Jobim, most of whose melodies look before they leap. But in the process Fest also muffles his own signature mesh of native rhythms and jazz improvisation. I doubt the issue will arise in Chicago, where Fest will reunite with a number of old friends who know his music and are more than willing to traverse forest and favela as well as Rio's beaches and cafes. The cast includes Fest's son Phil on guitar, Brazilian Geraldo de Oliveira on percussion, New Zealander Thomas Kini on electric bass, Costa Rican Alejo Poveda on drums, and local saxist Steve Eisen, who's spent considerable time in Brazil. Friday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552. NEIL TESSER

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