The art of Brazilian guitar playing has almost become a musical genre unto itself. The gorgeous music written by composers like Antônio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto echoes differently on six strings. Guitarists Romero Lubambo and Chico Pinheiro have spent their lives absorbing and refracting Brazilian music through the lens of the guitar. On their new recording, Two Brothers, the pair meets for a groundbreaking duo album of their favorite pieces, showing their true mastery of the Brazilian guitar style.
Lubambo became one of the foremost exponents of Brazilian guitar playing once he moved to the United States in 1985. His associations with Astrud Gilberto and Herbie Mann led to increased exposure and solidified his place amongst legends like Luiz Bonfa and Baden Powell. Twelve years ago, Lubambo was introduced to a guitarist who was leading the next generation of guitarists in Brazil, Chico Pinheiro, at a gig in Sao Paulo.
Having studied classical and jazz at Berklee School of Music, Pinheiro was a stylistic match for Lubambo, but with his own distinctive voice. The pair hit it off instantly, as friends and collaborators. Pinheiro moved to New York City five years ago, allowing their partnership to grow. Pinheiro began to drop by Lubambo’s house for sessions and the pair even found a handful of gigs to play around the East Coast.
Naturally, these two talented musicians found little time to dedicate to their new project, as they were involved in touring with other artists. Though, they always intended to find a way to record their unique duo project. Producer Matt Pierson was another link between the two guitarists. He regularly enlisted Lubambo and Pinheiro on projects where he felt their stylistic choices would fit best. The pair mentioned that they hoped to one day record an album together, to which Pierson said, “Let’s do it!”
The producer helped to cull pieces of music that would best highlight the duo’s musical rapport and breadth of command. Lubambo and Pinheiro already had a small repertoire and decided to keep a few pieces that they already had command over. The rest of the pieces were developed for the recording, with the two guitarists studying and reassembling the pieces to suit their melody and improvisations best. The pieces selected were composed by well-known figures that the musicians loved, with the hope that their interpretations would highlight the musicality of the compositions.
The majority of Two Brothers was recorded at Sear Sound Studios in New York City with Pierson and engineer Christopher Allen at the helm in August of 2021.
The program begins with the great Brazilian composer Djavan’s “Aquele Um,” a very important and rarely performed piece from Lubambo’s youth that the duo perform with verve. Chico Buarque’s “Samba e Amor” follows with a laidback, breezy feel, while Michel Legrand’s “Windmills of Your Mind” is slow, spare, and mysterious. Jobim’s “Red Blouse” is a regular piece for the duo and shows their effortless interplay.
Bill Evan’s classic “Waltz for Debby” was arranged at home by Pinheiro with the tracks sent to Lubambo to complete, the only piece that was constructed this way. The Jobim classic “Wave” is another staple for the duo, rendered gorgeously. The duo’s intricate arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s “Send One Your Love” sets up a pop music focus, which is followed by a meditative take on Billie Eilish’s “My Future” and a bright rendition of the Beatles’s “For No One.”
A passionate take of Chico Buarque’s “Morro Dois Irmaos,” the underappreciated tune from which the album gets its name, follows, an ideal example of the Brazilian idea of saudade. Mancini and Mercer’s “Sally’s Tomato” is a brilliant display of the duo’s ability to change tempo and feel on the fly. The recording concludes with Sting’s “Until…,” the tune itself a subtle but resonant rumination.
The addicting sound of the Brazilian guitar has intoxicated the ears of listeners since the bossa nova reached the United States. On Romero Lubambo and Chico Pinheiro’s Two Brothers, a new generation of Brazilian guitarists serves a program that re-energizes the Brazilian sound through the prism of twelve strings.