This is the first of the two Ballads albums recorded in Japan in 1986-1987 by the inimitable Richie Beirach. I've been trying to get them for many years, but they have been nearly impossible to track down. Now finally, they are being reissued on the Japanese Sony label.The music is great- it's Richie Beirach playing a mix of his marvelous originals and a few standards. It's great to hear these solo versions of Elm, Nightlake, Leaving and Sunday Song. As usual, Richie's playing is impeccable-the mood goes from eligaic to dark and brooding. There's also a wonderful letter perfect hommage to Bill Evans on his version of My Foolish Heart.
Gilberto Gil, recently named as Brazil's minister of culture, has always trodden a very individual path in Brazilian music. But even by his own standards, this is an unusual work. The Zumbi of the title is a Brazilian hero. He founded Palmares Quilombo, a place in Brazil where escaped and freed slaves could live as they had in Africa. Until closed by the Portuguese, Palmares Quilombo lasted almost 100 years. Z is a celebration of the man, conceived as a ballet, celebrating the 300th anniversary of Zumbi. The music here is actually a collaboration between Gil, the great songwriter and musician Carlinhos Brown, and Rodolfo Stroter, who was musical director for the project (however, the album appears under Gil's name).
The band's second LP was very strong; this time, most of the tunes are originals, with the exception of a cover of "Bald Headed Lena." Joe Butler and Yanovsky are featured on some lead vocals, and the album includes two more hits, "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice" and "Didn't Want to Have to Do It."