There would have been dancing in the aisles last night at the One Step Down had there been room to spare, for the Latin urgency of Lloyd McNeill's sextet had many patrons of the crowded club restless in their seats.
McNeill's flute produced every tone and timbre from bird song purity to hoarse human cries to haunting reverb echoes. It percussively simulated pianistic attack, landing smack on pianist Aloisio Aguiar's notes, and it sometimes rasped with the sound of sucked-in breath. His lines were bright, lively and endlessly inventive, and it was often unclear in the excitement if he was driving his five-piece rhythm section or it him.
The tapestry was thick, the polyrhythms frequently teetered on the brink of madness, and the mood was nearly always one of carnival. Whistles, rope bells, shakers, wood blocks and a dozen or so other percussion acessories were sprinkled into the boiling pot. Ciro Batista augmented the already heady atmosphere with the exotica of native Brazilian whoops and shouts and a riveting solo on the birimbau, a one-string bow-and-gourd instrument.
Among the tunes were several originals, including the opening "Sound Check," and an invigorating "St. Thomas," the Sonny Rollins classic. The other members of the group were bassist Dennis Irwin, conga player Steve Thornton and drummer Duduca Fonseca. They perform again tonight.