REVIEW: Felipe Salles – South American Suite

As someone who has always enjoyed Latin jazz, my spirits rise whenever I have the chance to review a new album featuring that type of music. But what makes it even more special is when that album is something a little different, and that’s certainly the case with Felipe Salles’ new release on the Curare label, South American Suite.

Salles is a talented instrumentalist with a couple of earlier albums to his credit, and has a high comfort level on several varieties of saxophone and flute, but that’s not what makes this album special. There are a couple other factors: first is that the Brazilian artist has chosen to utilize a larger playing group than the norm, with at least eight musicians on every track. The result is a versatility that allows the group to create sounds ranging from small and intimate to almost that of a large orchestra.

The album is also a little different because of its namesake South American Suite; a grouping of seven pieces composed and orchestrated by Salles. It’s an ambitious and all-encompassing project for the veteran musician, and he’s pretty successful at giving Latin jazz fans a different listening experience.

The individual tracks are mostly based on different styles of South American music, including Brazilian sounds such as that on “Unborn Choro,” along with something closer to the tango-like rhythms of Argentina. A good example of the latter is “Crayon,” which features Salles’ soaring sax on a definitely danceable tune.

But I think some of the music is almost reminiscent of the inventive sounds of the bop and post-bop eras, with the best example probably “Seven Days.” It’s a piece that is filled with instrumental sounds that personify the improvisational style of the past, albeit with an ever-present Latin foundation.

The album was originally recorded in late 2006 and then slated for release in late 2007, but is now available in both CD and download forms. A compelling collection of music, and something a little different for fans of Latin jazz.

Buy the album.

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