Label/Year: Self-produced, 2017
Lineup – Bruno Santos: guitar; André Santos: guitar.
Mano a Mano, a duo of brothers/guitarists from Portugal, Bruno and André Santos, just released their sophomore album, Mano a Mano vol. 2, following a similar principle applied to their self-titled debut in terms of tune selection, which includes repertoire from the Great American Songbook, bossa nova classics, as well as original compositions explored with fresh electro-acoustic ideas and bold effects.
André’s “Super Mario”, a tune inspired by the famous computer game popularized in the 80s, opens the record as a unified effort delivered with 6 beats per measure in the form of an exalted rhythmic dance. Appropriate guitar hammer-ons and pull-offs are combined to emulate the excitement of playing the game with the guitarists taking advantage of the percussive possibilities offered by their instruments whenever they can.
Boasting an impressive tempo feel and swinging brio, the pair digs a few mainstream classics with a laid-back, unmystifying assertiveness. One can enjoy the melody of “Dinah”, designed in parallel, before a contagious swing is imposed in favor of the solos, “Without a Song”, which was elevated by a deep bluesy impression, “Grand Slam”, tackled with a robust rock n’ roll intuit, and pianist Hank Jones’ bopping valse “Vignette”, which functions as a getaway from the archetypal 4/4 time signature.
Bruno, the elder brother, contributes with two compositions, disparate in nature, but equally positive when it comes to stirring emotions. If “A Cadeira, o Baloiço e a Rosa" is an affectionate lullaby perfused with the folk delineations of André’s braguinha (a traditional four-string instrument from Madeira island, where they were born), “Nem Tudo é o Que Parece” is a multi-layered experiment on folk-rock and jazz fusion that could have been mounted by Pat Metheny or Mike Stern. This visible urgency in being more expansive with their sounds and textures should be further explored. The same dynamic duo that plunges headfirst into these waters also colors Jobim’s “Modinha/Carta ao Tom” with grandiose voicings and touching honesty, and “Bolinha de Papel”, a tune popularized by the great João Gilberto, with elated rhythms, shifting tempos, and the shrill sounds of the braguinha.
“Mano a Mano” (mano means brother in Portuguese and the expression ‘mano a mano’ stands for face-to-face or confrontation/competition) closes the session more as a fair cooperation rather than a duel, mixing Herbie Hancock’s subtle vibes with ethereal pop and wrapping it up with surrounding electronic loops.
Rendered with irresistible orthodoxy, Chico Buarque’s “Carolina” is presented at the end as a hidden track, and definitely deserves to be discovered.
01 - Super Mario ► 06 - Nem Tudo é o Que Parece ► 07 - Modinha/Carta ao Tom