Pianist and composer Helio Alves has received high praise as an in-demand sideman with Joe Henderson, Yo-Yo Ma, Slide Hampton, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, Paquito D'Rivera, Claudio Roditi, Oscar Castro-Neves and Gato Barbieri, to name but a few. And now, with more than 40 recordings as a sideman - and two at the helm of his own ensembles - this incomparable musician is quite deservedly earning respect as a leader too.
Alves' second recording as leader, Portrait in Black in White (Reservoir Music, 2004), once again displays his impressive mastery of both straight-ahead and Brazilian jazz styles. The release is highlighted by four Alves originals - Frenzy, Sambetinho, Loose Samba and Song for Anna - and features his longtime musical friend Santi Debriano on bass and Matt Wilson on drums.
Alves is emerging as a powerful interpreter of even the most familiar standards, such as You Must Believe In Spring, Angel Eyes, and Jobim's Portrait in Black and White, all included on his new release, and imparts a distinctively fluid and rhythmic stamp to his music. Alves selected all the music for Portrait in Black in White, and included compositions by bassist Steve Swallow (Falling Grace) and Brazilian multi-instrumentalist and composer, Egberto Gismonti (Loro). The mix of straight-ahead and Brazilian sensibilities reflects Alves' personal tastes and his musical complexity. I love jazz, and I love Brazilian music, and I always try to open things up a bit by mixing the two together, he says. It's good to be able to go back and forth, trading one off the other. It keeps things interesting.