PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Carlos Barbosa-Lima: Mambo No. 5

Barbara Flaska

Carlos Barbosa-lima

Mambo No. 5

Label: Khaeon
US Release Date: 2001-09-25

Judging from the title and the cover shot of a blurry little Metropolitan convertible overflowing with bouquets of long-stemmed roses, Carlos Barbosa-Lima is revving up to swing out, sister. Reading through the titles, the material represents a fine selection of Latin music from 1930 through 1950. Mambo No. 5 is a reminder not to judge the book (or record) by the cover. At first glance, this offering more than hints at a peppy upbeat journey. The twenty pieces as impeccably performed on acoustic guitar are primarily introspective renditions, always breathtaking in complexity and execution though often tinged with melancholy. For Sr. Barbosa-Lima, this is a brief pit stop on a continuing journey of melodic interpretations begun more than forty years ago.

The idea behind the CD is almost a natural. Barbosa-Lima was born in Brazil and was a young precocious student of both Brazilian guitarist Isaias Savios and Andres Segovia. Since the late '60s, Barbosa-Lima's acclaim as an exceptional acoustic guitarist is well deserved. He can provide near symphonic complexity on a solo instrument, because when he arranges he looks on his guitar as his orchestra. He worked personally with Antonio Carlos Jobim when reannotating Jobim's compositions for solo guitar and provided a tasteful restatement of Luiz Bonfa's works.

On this CD, Barbosa-Lima goes it alone on 15 of the 20 numbers. The title tune, El Rey Perez Prado's "Mambo No. 5", is true to spirit -- playful, light but a little raucous, and certainly lively. On this, he receives an assist in the rhythm section from Eddie Gomez on bass, Oscar Hernandez on piano, plus two percussionists. Backed by the same players, the way up-tempo Brazilian "Tico Tico" is like speed samba, but also conjures up images of checkered red tablecloths and a candle stuck in a Chianti bottle. "Perfidia", with Eddie Gomez on bass, is likely to become my favorite version of one of my favorite songs and might be worth the price of the whole compilation for anyone else, especially if you have a thing for 1950s jazz trios. Unfortunately, those are pretty much it for the upbeat numbers, except for "Cachita", which moves rhythmically from salsa to samba to montuno, and includes a kinky bongo solo. And "Arquelo Do Brasil", once the long slow introduction to theme is out of the way and the samba begins kicking up its heels even as a solo piece.

The remaining pieces are solo endeavors, all slower in meter and high on technical demand. The graceful "Guantanamera" seems to have incorporated elements in the technique of stammering the rhythm shifts needed to play bossa nova or samba, but this is a recognizable guajira. Simply done, but simply impressive.

Barbosa-Lima's virtuosity and masterful technique throughout the CD are inspiring. There is, though, a rather cool, classical approach to the remainder of the arrangements. Instead of feeling like a blue-sky travel poster, the overall mood is like looking at Impressionist paintings on a day that had promised sun and is now clouding over. But, a lot of cerebral types seem to feel that way.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.