by Stella Landry
With nimble fingers and crafty pen, Neo-Classical Brazilian guitarist, vocalist, and composer Benji Kaplan is bridging the gap between Brazilian music and the American songbook. Kaplan expresses his craft through performing and writing for solo nylon-strung guitar as well as large and medium populated ensembles ranging from string quartets to wind ensembles of varying instrumentations and sizes. Kaplan has released three critically acclaimed albums to date, Meditações no violão, a solo guitar album of his original compositions; Reveries em Som, an album of duets with flautist Anne Drummond; and Uai Sô, featuring original compositions expressed through varied ensembles. Now, Kaplan has released his fourth album, Chorando Sete Cores, which pairs the wind quintet with Kaplan’s acoustic nylon-stringed guitar for a colorful adventure in sound through thirteen original Kaplan compositions.
The opening track “Bryant Park” instantly establishes the romantic sonorities found throughout Chorando Sete Cores. The melody is a remarkable combination of classical inspired compositional techniques combined with Brazilian rhythms and colors. The intro is a beautiful example of orchestration for the small ensemble. Kaplan’s use of colors in the woodwinds paired with the French horn’s brassy voice in the melody is brilliant. Kaplan’s guitar playing is based in the classical tradition too. Mainly this refers to his right-hand technique, as he uses his fingers instead of a plectrum to produce his sounds. This also allows him to play contrapuntally, giving the music an even wider voice.
“A Trickster’s Bolero” especially showcases Kaplan’s mastery of ensemble color and composition skills. The interaction between the woodwinds and Kaplan’s guitar is spectacular. Woodwind colors float in and out of tutti and counterpoint with Kaplan’s multi-layered guitar parts. Kaplan also does an outstanding job of keeping a bass figure in his guitar part that steadies a gentle Brazilian feel of swaying forward and the pulse can be easily felt. The music is positive and flowing, colors and moods float throughout the audible spectrum, but the beauty and proportions within the music are always in focus and easy for the ear to grab and hold on to.
Kaplan’s latest endeavor is a vast step forward in his discography, showing the true brilliance of his imagination and pen. I look forward to what ideas come next, but in the meantime Chorando Sete Cores is meant to be savored as a lasting piece in Kaplan’s discography.
by Benji Kaplan
- Release Date: November 3, 2017
- Label: Big Apple Batucada Records
- Total Length: 40:25