World & Latin

Acid Jazz, Latin Style

13 NOV 08 JOHN C. BRUENING

Opa may have enjoyed only a short tenure in the acid jazz scene of the '70s, but they made a couple solid records that still hold up three decades after they were originally pressed. Goldenwings and Magic Time are two such titles, which were remastered and re-released as a single disc on Milestone in 1997.

Released on Fantasy in 1976 and 1977, respectively, the albums showcase the innovative and diverse sensibility of this Uruguayan trio comprised of keyboardist/pianist /singer Hugo Fattoruso, drummer George Fattoruso (Hugo's brother) and bassist Ringo Thielmann.

Goldenwings is a high-energy session that blends jazz, rock, funk and Latin rhythms from Brazil and Uruguay. Guest guitarist David Amaro adds some sharp accents and solos, most notably on the title track, while Hugo's synthesizer work sets up a host of textures and colors. Brazilian flutist Hermeto Pascoal establishes some subtle lines, especially on "Paper Butterflies."

Magic Time is a more complex affair, consisting of five extended tracks. Hugo's arrangements are more disciplined, and nothing here is verbose or overlong. The entire band and their four guests -- guitarist Barry Finnerty, percussionist Airto and vocalists Ruben Rada and Flora Purim -- operate as a powerful rhythmic unit, yet maintain their emphasis on melody and harmony.

The individual members of Opa went separate ways in the early-'80s. The Fattoruso brothers were still pursuing musical careers in the late-'90s, but Thielmann had dropped out of music entirely. Nevertheless, these two little known gems serve as a reminder of not only this trio's engaging sound, but the acid jazz period in which they briefly flourished.