|The official website of Oscar Castro-Neves|
A celebration of cultures, heart, soul, and spirit. Playful Heart.
Equally renowned as an orchestrator, arranger and producer, Castro-Neves brings those talents into sharp focus on Playful Heart, his seventh solo recording overall, and his debut for Mack Avenue Records, as he bends, twists and shapes songs from such legendary (and diverse) composers as Lennon and McCartney, Michel Legrand, Charlie Parker and Stephen Sondheim, as well Brazilian classics from Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa.
The CD opens with Jobim's "Waters Of March," considered by many critics, including the late Leonard Feather, to be one of the "songs of the century." At once reminiscent of its best-known renditions and made unique by Castro-Neves' own distinctive style, the track is also notable as the first time in his career that the multi-faceted artist has sung on a recording. As he segues into the CD's next track, Castro-Neves pays apt tribute to both Charlie Parker's "Groovin' High" and the swing standard "Whispering," with an arrangement of the two that effortlessly fuses Brazil with Bebop, made even more intriguing by Toots Thielemans on harmonica.
On "Watch What Happens," written by Michel Legrand for the French Film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Castro-Neves pays tribute to guitar great Wes Montgomery, making use of his trademark octaves to change the tune's harmonic structure while losing none of its inherent romantic essence, thanks - in part - to the subtle interplay between Gary Meek on woodwinds and Castro-Neves' guitar. "My Foolish Heart" pays homage to another of Castro-Neves' great influences, Bill Evans, whose landmark version of the tune inspired Playful Heart's spare, rhythmic rendition, which features an understated piano solo by frequent collaborator Don Grusin. Castro-Neves once again mingles two distinct yet complimentary musical styles on "Manhã de Carnaval/Prelude #3, as he interweaves the ballad originally written by Luis Bonfa for the Brazilian film Black Orpheus with quotes from a piece by the respected Brazilian classical composer and guitarist Heitor Vila-Lobos.
"Four Brothers," made famous by Woody Herman's Thundering Herd Orchestra, is here re-arranged for flutes in place of saxophones, and displays the multi-faceted talents of woodwind wizard Gary Meek. "Years ago, I had a woodwind quintet that performed at a small club in Los Angeles," remembers Castro-Neves. "This time I revamped the arrangement I had originally written for that group to use Gary Meek to play all their parts." In discussing his new rendition of Lennon and McCartney's "Fool On The Hill, a song which he first played when working with Sergio Mendes' Brazil 66, " Castro-Neves says, "The beauty of their songbook transcends their own 'Beatles' sound. They just wrote great songs that could be performed in any style, retaining their intrinsic magic."
Castro-Neves' talents as an arranger are beautifully displayed on "Lorry's Swing/Autumn Leaves." Says the guitarist, "I completely re-harmonized the song (originally written by Joseph Kozma and Jacques Prevert and performed by Brazilian crooner Dick Farney on the Andy Williams show in the 1960's) and then, inspired by its new chord changes, wrote a new melody, 'Lorry's Swing,' that became a counterpoint, living between the notes, of 'Autumn Leaves.'" His version of the Sondheim classic, "Send In The Clowns," perfectly captures what Castro-Neves says is "the intricate harmonic context of Sondheim's music." "Everything Happens To Me," originally written in 1936, timelessly retains its bittersweet irony, and develops into a duet, with Charlie Bisharat's violin playing between the lines of romantic poetry.
Inspired by the harmonic structure of Jobim's "Wave," Castro-Neves composed a new melody that evolved into "Twenty Year Love Affair," the song that precedes it on Playful Heart. Finally, the CD concludes with Lucio Dalla's "Caruso," once a hit for Luciano Pavarotti. "According to legend, it depicts Enrico Caruso, the legendary tenor, his health and voice beginning to fail, sitting on the balcony of his hotel in Venice, singing to his lover," related Castro-Neves, "A beautiful story, full of emotion and the bittersweet-ness of love, I translated it here to a bossa nova."