Claudio Slon (vocals, synthesizer, drums, water drum, timabales, percussion);
Larry Williams (saxophone, flute);
Gene Goe (trumpet, flugelhorn);
Mike Julian, Frank Rosolino (trombone);
Greg Phillinganes (acoustic and electric pianos); Lee Ritenour (guitar).
Nothing mind-blowing here but this is a solid record from a guy with a lot more album credits than he has records as a bandleader. Having played with Brazilian greats like Elza Soares and Martinha da Vila, by this time Paulinho da Costa was well entrenched in the slick LA jazz studio-musician scene. That slickness threatens to over saturate this entry on the Pablo label but Paulinho's energy on percussion manages to pull it back from the brink more often than not. The opening "S'imbora" may not hook you immediately with its crystalline jazz-funk fusion but by the end of it you would be hard-pressed not to admit they are cooking something savory. "Terra" is one of two percussion-centric cuts here, this one consisting of a dinner-party Santeria or Candomblé groove; the other, "Ritmo Number One" is a samba freakout and easily the most energetic thing on the album. "Toledo Bagel" lets Paulinho prove his mettle as a salsero. "Berimbau Variations" is more than what its title implies. It opens up with an otherworldly swell of notes and features an interesting flute riff in a pretty tightly-composed piece clocking in a three and a half minutes. The band here are all more than capable but somewhat lifeless and restrained for the material, perhaps due to their California studio habitus they just can't manage to break out. Keys player Greg Phillinganes (who has some sweet credits with Roy Ayers, Syreeta, Harvey Mason and others) gets some good runs on the electric piano but doesn't really cut it playing salsa on the acoustic piano. Larry Williams (Seawind, Shiela E., Michael Jackson) has a nice solo on "Belisco" but elsewhere his playing tends towards nondescript. Steve Huffsteter (Willie Bobo, Shorty Rogers, Moacir Santos and many more) is under-utilized here in my opinion although he gets to employ his arranging skills to great effect on "Belisco." Lee Ritanour is still Lee Ritanour. Drummer Cláudio Slon is a fine drummer and also played with Paulinho in Sergio Mendes' Brasil '77 group, so it is kind of surprising that they don't sound more 'in the pocket' here. I think the issue is the mix: Cláudio's drum kit is tucked away under the other instruments, foregrounding Paulinho - it is his session, after all - but I think if they had pushed him forward a few decibels it would have given the tracks more impact.
All in all this is a strong record. His Pablo release "Muito Bem!" with Joe Pass gets a "pass" from me in spite of seeming like it might be a promising record. His second record as a bandleader, "Happy People" (not to be confused with the Brazilian-themed Cannonball Adderley album) is also pretty good.