It’s something of a commonplace to say that a given artist has a foot in two different cultures—but in Rick Udler’s case, it’s actually true. He has lived for long stretches of time in both the U.S. and Brazil. You could even say he could even claim to three, four or maybe five different cultures, since he was actually born in Chile—to Argentine parents of Eastern European extraction.) Having talked to him about his roots, I’m pretty sure he would only lay claim to the U.S. and Brazil as his spiritual homes. But then again, his musical colleague Brazilian artist Ulisses Rocha is not unjustified in saying that he hears in Rick’s music, “the music of the world.”

The Brazilian flavor on this solo record is, of course, very much pronounced. But as early on as the second track, we encounter the very (North)American sounding “Nawlins”—which should tell you something about Udler’s internationalism. And his cosmopolitan sense of play is very much in evidence when in the midst of his lengthy, improvisational sounding “Papaya,” he suddenly quotes “Purple Haze.” But it’s playful—not overly jokey. And like the various other improvs he throws into the track, it all fits.

I have had the good fortune to catch Rick in performance twice in the last year. He is as skillful a performer as you could possibly wish for, as well as being a consummate entertainer. The CD, though, reveals so much technique with repeated listenings that I feel I’ll be able to listen to him with fresh ears whenever I have the occasion to see him perform live again.

Also commendable—and enriching—is the understated accompiment. The focus on each track, of course, is Rick’s guitar, but his accompanists have a way of embellishing his extraordinary guitar work without threatening to overpower the arrangements. Just the right amount of bass, piano and percussion. I would love to be able to hear Rick perform with a full band, but I’m guessing I’d have to go to Brazil for that.

From what I know, Rick’s US performances are often very brief mini-tours. If you have the opportunity to catch this gifted instrumentalist live, I’d certainly recommend it. In the meantime, you can hardly go wrong with this CD. Wonderful stuff. Polished, occasionally a little trippy (yes, I could imagine him sitting in with an acoustic Jerry Garcia) and full of sly humor (not just the Hendrix quote, but a charming and witty homage to Charlie Chaplin as well on the CD’s closing track. Fans of Brazilian music will definitely want to check this out, but even if you’ve never been drawn to the genre, Rick Udler’s own unique brand of world music will almost certainly appeal. Indeed it’s hard to think of a better introduction to the Brazilian guitar.
— Gregor von Kallahann