Tracy Does Brazil

Tracings (Sea Breeze)
Michael Tracy

By Martin Kasdan Jr.

University of Louisville Professor Michael Tracy's new CD, Tracings, offers strong evidence to refute the cliche that those who can, do and those who can't, teach. This album is on the small but topnotch independent label Sea Breeze, which has released CDs by such established artists as Nick Brignola, Sammy Nestico and Rob McConnell & The Boss Brass.

Tracy presents an hour's worth of music with a strong Brazilian flavor, featuring his work on tenor and soprano saxophones (and occasional percussion). Besides Tracy, the only other musician on all the tracks is Louisville's gift to the bass world, Tyrone Wheeler. The pianist on most tracks is Brazilian Renato Vasconcellos, with Indianapolis' Steve Allee playing on two songs. The first piece is a Vasconcellos original entitled "August 5," an uptempo number with a happy feeling. Wheeler solos arco and Tracy sounds at times as though he has overdubbed a duet part. Wheeler is again featured, this time on electric bass, in the next number, "Melancia" while Tracy's soprano weaves gently through the rhythms of this samba. The famed composer Milton Nascimento's song "Vera Cruz" follows, with a sound that flirts with "smooth" without losing its integrity. "September 15" is another Vasconcellos composition, this time honoring the late pianist Bill Evans. It has more of a mainstream modern sound than the other Brazilian pieces and alternates between slow and medium tempo movements, with Wheeler taking a pizzicato solo during one of the slower movements.

Throughout this recording, Tracy's sympathetic approach to the music of Brazil is felt in his warm and sensitive playing. This is a CD which deserves a national audience, not just one made up of those of us who are exposed to Tracy through his playing and teaching on the local level.