Jazz Improv Magazine review Nov. 2000

By John Barrett, Jr

"...this sound and this musician deserve your attention "

Pete Brewer sounds so eager; with each song is excitement, Pete itching to show what he can do. On "Second Wind" it's a strong tenor sax: bright forceful tone, the notes almost slurped. When his pianist hits a Tyneresque vamp, Brewer turns edgy, putting rasp in his phrases. There's a bit of Coltrane, and a lot of energy; each slithering line has its logic. It's a hard act to follow, and the band does it: slashing drums from Herdsman Ed Soph, lush chords from Dan Haerle. Then Brewer comes back, at the depths of his range; now he has more force, and exits the tune in style. This sound, and this musician, deserve your attention.

On other instruments, Pete doesn't just change his tone-----he's got a whole other personality. His flute drifts gently on "Staying Close," a rainy-day samba. Here he's got a delicate touch, of glass. For an older sound, try "Fresh Brew", with its warm brushes and 5/4 meter, it sings like 'fifties chamber jazz. Pete whistles along, with the tone of a wooden flute; Dennis Dotson yawns on his flugelhorn, sweet and easy. It's music for a picnic-----perhaps a drive through the country.

"The Long Goodbye" is more like a sunrise: moving slowly, in calm pastel shades. Pete starts with a woody blare, this proves to be a soprano sax, its tone between the clarinet and oboe. It gets stronger with each chorus; he seems to be weeping, without any sadness. A minute of this and Pete erupts, whirling in frantic spirals----Soph answers with thunder. It ends with the mood it began; all that's changed is the passion. And its intensity.

On later tracks the piano is absent, replaced by the guitar of Fred Hamilton. He fills the air with wispy echoes, a little bit like Ben Monder. While Hamilton meditates, Pete gets more expressive; the Trane influence is more pronounced, used in varying ways. "Young and Foolish" is weary and lonesome, Pete up in alto range. His notes are poignant; fits well with the scampering brushes. "Keep It Up" goes straight for the gusto: Dennis Durick taps the cymbals like Elvin, and a rough theme pours from the steamroller sax. Hamilton sounds a bit out of place; his nervous chords never jell with Peter's strut. (His solo is another story: quiet shimmers, broken up by bluesy slashes.)

"Old Folks" is an afterthought, Pete singing the first half (a friendly, if generic voice.) A better finale is "Nothing Ventured," the next to last song. An Autumn waltz, Pete's flute cries concern while Haerle traces his path. Hamilton twangs, this time on bass ; his is a hurried walk, draped in brushes. Haerle stretches out lushly; this style is the real McCoy. This is strength in sad surroundings, beauty amid uncertainty-----Pete handles all the emotions, with style to burn. Didn't I tell you he was eager?

Cadence Magazine review Feb. 2001

By Frank Rubolino

Multi-reed player Brewer takes a straightforward yet adventurous tack on his sessions on "Second Wind". His trios, quartets, and quintets are comprised of four contingents of musicians who assist him in his expeditions through some very attractive pieces. Brewer opens the program with a series of original compositions where he is able to expound melodically while still managing to show off his improvisational side. He plays with a lighthearted touch, lyrically catching a breeze with each tune and sailing along with it while the band provides the soft-hued accompaniment. Brewer is equally adept on all his reeds, although his soprano sound on "The Long Goodbye" has a saccharine flavor that leans toward the smooth school. On tenor, alto flute, or C flute, however, he discards this technique and improvises with originality. His flute solos are quite stimulating, but I sense he prefers the tenor as his main weapon of attack.

The bands behind Brewer are primarily piano trios, where Haerle, Tomboulian, and Zoller share the duties. They develope the driving, rhythmic pulse that pushes Brewer into his many solos. The most consistently used player is bassist/guitarist Hamilton, who appears on seven cuts with the overlapping groups. On two of them, Hamilton takes over the piano player's role on guitar to instill the atmosphere with a very genial feeling. He and Brewer get into involved responsive conversations where Hamilton's guitar strings sing out against the more aggressive tenor tones of Brewer. Brewer closes the disc with a vocal of "Old Folks" that fits neatly with the temperament of the program, and he also contributes a fine tenor solo. The recording has many delightful interludes and is an appropriate vehicle to highlight Brewer as a first-rate reed player.

Circo - North/South Convergence - TBS 1001

all about Dec. 2001 by Dave Hughes

While the band Circo is based in the U.S. (around the University of North Texas in Denton, to be specific), they have embarked upon the mission of performing and promoting the music of Uruguay, and to an extent, Brazil. The inspiration for this music began with founder Lee Tomboulian's purchase of Airto's 70s album Fingers (a college favorite of mine too, I might add). The rhythm section of that band was made up of Uruguayans Hugo Fattoruso (Keyboards), Jorge Fattoruso (drums) and Ringo Thielmann (bass), who went on to form their own trio called Opa, which recorded two albums that were also influential. The circle is completed here on Circo's debut North/South Convergence with Hugo Fattoruso's input as the producer of this CD.

The CD is characterized by consistently interesting percussion, adventurous harmonies, and unpredictable, quirky melodies. The band moves effortlessly across time signatures, shifting from 4 to either 6 or 3. The melodies often feature varying pairs of instruments, which further add to the sonic interest. "Metropolis" is an especially intriguing composition, covering a lot of musical territory. Lee Tomboulian on piano and Pete Brewer on sax and flute contribute well-constructed solos in every rhythmic terrain. Both Tomboulian and bassist Brian Warthen understand that their instruments fulfill as rhythmic as well as harmonic role. Uruguay's indigenous "condombe" rhythm, starting with three hand or stick drums and building layer upon layer, is heard at several points on the CD and forms the foundation for "OLD 100th" ("Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow"). This effectively segues into the CD's closer, an unaccompanied vocal duet of Milton Nascimento's beautiful "O Vendedor de Sonhos".

This CD truly charts its own course throughout the program. It's unique and creative, and certainly recommended.

Track Listing: Samberg; Ariel; Grace; Rhoda Ribbon; Circo TV Theme; Metropolis; Ana; Hinde Who?; Vauda's Song; Six-Fortitude; Memory Gardens; Old 100th; O Vendedor de Sonhos.

Personnel: Lee Tomboulian - keyboards; Betty Tomboulian - vocals; Pete Brewer - sax and flute; Brian Warthen - bass; Dennis Durick - drums; Ricardo Bozas - percussion.

Circo - Cadence review March 2002

by Frank Rubolino

Circo plays bold, spirited music that has the root element of the Latin culture embedded within a Jazz framework. Rhythmic drive is at the core of the band's music, and it moves at a quick pace to the solid percussion of Durick and Bozas. Circo is also a vocal group. Both Tomboulians harmonize the words of Shakespeare's The Tempest as a springboard to "Ariel," and elsewhere they include voice additives to supplement the instrumental playing. Betty Tomboulian competes on most cuts with nonverbal voicing that flies above the rhythm. The two Tomboulians are also the composers of most of the selections, all of which have a touch of commercial appeal to go along with the authentic Latin foundation. While several guest artists appear on the disc, Circo is primarily a sextet. It features the woodwind playing of Brewer, but the group dances primarily to the impetus of piano, bass, and percussion.

Lee Tomboulian leads the way on piano, synthesizer, or accordion. He inserts a gentle, lilting touch into the music, adeptly mixing a Jazz aesthetic with the upbeat sounds of South America. Brewer keeps the music flying high on saxophones and flute, and Warthen is the purveyor of the heavy electric bass undercurrent. It is the percussionists, however, who establish the flavor of this music. Durick and Bozas are the backbone of the band and provide the identifying sound. The music is basically a lighthearted jaunt. It has a pleasant, appealing manner and several strong improvisational highpoints. Circo will keep any party going with its dedication to rhythm.