Amaro Freitas – Y’Y

An engaging, fascinating, and complex experience...

Amaro Freitas has been on the scene – as a solo artist – for just under a decade now. In that time, he’s released three exquisite albums. On 2021’s ‘Sankofa’ we felt like we were starting to see a future legend emerging. His new album ‘Y’Y’ feels like the point when Freitas is truly unveiled to the world. The album is filled with dense composition, but instead of a furrowed brow and not knowing how to approach the songs – as can happen with complex jazz composition – we are given in-roads. The album was inspired by the natural world. It’s almost as if Freitas is our guide, holding our hand and leading the way through the jungle. The album ‘Y’Y’ (pronounced eey-eh, eey-eh) is the word in Sateré Mawé dialect for water or river… it’s also the sound I’ve used with friends to let them know that something is good. And ‘Y’Y’ is definitely good! 

Amaro Freitas travelled 4,600 from his home in Racife to Manaus, in the Amazon basin, and there he absorbed the wonder of the jungle. This wonder flows from ‘Y’Y’ at any given moment. ‘Viva Naná’ is one of the standout tracks on the album. Opening with the sounds of nature – birds, monkeys, leaves – then voices come in imitating the natural sounds. About a third of the way through sparse instrumentation enters the mix, piano, guitar, percussion, and we’re off to the races. What really makes ‘Viva Naná’ such a joy is how loose it is. It feels almost improvised, but rigid at the same time.

‘Uiara (Encantada da Agua) – Vida e cura’ has fierce piano work throughout, truly dextrous and aggressive playing. It’s loosely based on the pink river dolphins found in the Amazon: the music is playful, but also serious as their habitat is vanishing due to, well, us. This idea of our need for food and furniture impacting the natural work is that makes ‘Y’Y’ such a captivating, and depressing, listen.

The title track ‘Y’Y’ features a Shabaka Hutchings flute loop. Its rich, sensual and beguiling. As Hutchings plays, tribal vocals and rhythms play below, over, and through it. This merging of old and new helps creates something fresh and exciting. There is a sequence when Hutching slows things down; you can almost hear him draw breath before playing; this attention to detail is exquisite and it reminds us to make the most of the small details in life. 

‘Mar de Cirandeiras’ features another guest – this time Jeff Parker on guitar. The song is based on a tradition dance from Freitas’ home state, where people clasp hands and move in a circle. Freitas plays delicate piano, and also sings. Parker’s playing is rich and expressive. At first, it’s all call and response/copycatting what Freitas, then around the halfway mark Parker starts to play these delicately warming solos. Here you can imagine a slow dance, of people moving round and round. As the final notes are wrung out of the piano and guitar I feel moved, like I’ve experienced something special and unexpected. 

‘Y’Y’ is an album that I’m constantly hearing new things with each play. The last time I listened to ‘Mapinguari (Encantado da Mata)’ I heard this faint twinkling sound in the background. At first it didn’t add a great deal to the listening experience, but when I played the album again, I was listening out for it, and when it appeared I felt a rush of euphoria and excitement that was totally unexpected given how small a part of the song it is. But this is what ‘Y’Y’ can do, if you allow it. It has the power to give you these little, unexpected, rushes enabling you to fall utterly for this intricate, complex, but captivating album.

9/10

Words: Nick Roseblade

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