"Ijexa" takes its name from the African-derived rhythm that sensuously underpins much of the music heard during Carnival in Brazil. It's more than that, though, for the Washington-based ensemble Orijem (Portuguese for Origin), who clearly view ijexa as a source of cultural pride and endless possibilities. For proof, check out the album's title track, a celebration of spiritual roots and branches, punctuated by wordless vocals, funk beats and Peter Fraize's full-throated sax.
Led by Brazilian-born, Washington-bred brothers Alejandro and Leonardo Lucini, Orijem spends much of its time on "Ijexa" commuting between continents, blending Brazilian music with elements of contemporary and straight ahead jazz. The brothers make for a nimble rhythm section -- bandleader Alejandro on percussion; Leonardo on electric and acoustic bass -- beginning with the opening track, a breezy reprise of Joao Bosco's engaging samba, "Preta Porter de Tafeta," featuring flutist Enrique Rios. Another highlight the pan-cultural "Point of View," a richly textured ballad composed by Alejandro, also demonstrate the band's resourcefulness and dexterity.
Elsewhere, Fraize can always be counted on to keep such familiar jazz themes as "On Green Dolphin Street" and "Stolen Moments" from veering into jazz-lite territory, while the keyboard work by Dan Reynolds, John Ozment and Vince Edwards often proves evocative or inventive. The result is an album that's not just for fans of Brazilian jazz.
Appearing Sunday at Lewie's. To hear a free Sound Bite from Origem, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8124. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)