All That Samba (and Choro and Forró)

All That Samba 
(and Choro and 

Some of the best sound Brazil produced in 2002. Topping
the list: Zé Renato and Wagner Tiso’s
beautiful Memorial,
Milton Nascimento’s heartfelt
Pietá and Jacques/Paula
Morelenbaum & Ryuichi
Sakamoto’s Jobiniano Casa,
recorded at Tom Jobim’s home.


Egídio Leitão

It appears that the recording industry in Brazil changed gears in 2002. Besides the obvious new releases, and as
a replacement to the deluge of live recordings in previous years, recording labels opted for reissuing a number of
great titles, some of which appearing on CD for the first time last year. From the albums I was able to get a hold of and
listen to, here are my favorites of 2002. The problem with these types of lists is that a lot of good titles do not make the
final count. So, keep in mind this is not meant to be comprehensive.


· Água de Moringa: As Inéditas de

· Época de Ouro: Café Brasil 2

· Nó em Pingo D’Água:
Domingo na Geral

· Paulo Moura: K-Ximblues

Choro is as Brazilian as the popular samba. In recent years,
choro groups have released solid albums
revisiting traditional works and introducing new compositions.
Água de Moringa and Nó em Pingo
are two examples. Água de Moringa’s
As Inéditas de Pixinguinha recovered some unknown gems by the grand master of
choro, Pixinguinha. With special guests including Martinho da Vila, among others, this album is a good addition to
your Pixinguinha collection. As for contemporary
choro, Nó em Pingo D’Água invited pianist Cristóvão Bastos to add to
their spicy Domingo na Geral. The album features new compositions written mostly by the group members as well as
Bastos. The album is high energy choro. Bastos’s piano accompaniment is an excellent addition to Nó’s unique sound,
and Paulinho da Viola guest stars in one track.

Giving continuation to last year’s successful
Café Brasil, Época de
closed the year with their Café Brasil
2. The formula used in the previous release is present again with the same good results. Some guests included here are
Elba Ramalho, Sivuca, Ney Matogrosso and others. The opening track features a lively duet between the old and new
choro generations, Época de Ouro and Nó em Pingo D’Água, respectively.

Somewhere among these great releases, a disappointing album must be mentioned:
Paulo Moura‘s K-Ximblues. The idea of making an entire album with K-Ximbinho’s music was great. Paulo Moura is also a superb performer, but
K-Ximblues did not live up to my expectations. K-Ximbinho was a
choro composer who best showed the gray line that separates
jazz from choro. In K-Ximblues, however, I couldn’t help but hear more jazz than
choro. Even guest star Mauricio Einhorn did not help make this release a great album this past year. Performances are good, but the music is far from choro.


· Azymuth: Partido Novo

· Cesar Camargo Mariano: Nova Saudade

· Cesar Camargo Mariano & Romero
: Duo

· Daniela Spielmann: Brazilian Breath

· João Donato:

· Kenny Barron & Trio da
: Canta Brasil

· Romero Lubambo: Brazilian Routes

Among other instrumental releases, 2002 brought more memorable albums.
Azymuth‘s jazz fusion sound re-appeared in
Partido Novo. Pianist Kenny Barron delved deeper into a Brazilian repertoire with
Canta Brasil. To make a good thing even better, Barron was accompanied by
Trio da Paz.

After 2001’s multiple releases, João
marked his presence last year with the brand new
Managarroba. This CD was hot and proved that Donato continues to bless us with his magic touch.

Though originally released in Japan in 2001, these next albums were released in Brazil last year:
Cesar Camargo Mariano‘s Nova Saudade,
Romero Lubambo‘s Brazilian Routes and
Daniela Spielmann‘s Brazilian Breath. Each
album was distinctively Brazilian and featured great music along with special guests ranging from Paquito D’Rivera
to songstress Marianna Leporace.

Cesar continues to innovate with each new arrangement he writes. His creativity is remarkable. This is even
more noticeable when one listens to Cesar Camargo Mariano & Romero
‘s Duo, their latest project.
Duo shows the incomparable union between piano and guitar through the hands of these talented musicians.

Acoustic Guitar

· Paulinho Nogueira: Chico Buarque – Primeiras

· Raphael Rabello &
Convidados: Mestre Capiba

· Raphael Rabello & Nelson
: A Voz e o

For guitar lovers, Paulinho Nogueira revisited Chico Buarque’s first compositions in
Chico Buarque – Primeiras
Composições. A master of masters, Nogueira needs no introduction.

However, for my own personal taste, as far as acoustic guitarists are concerned, no one compares to
Raphael Rabello. This past year listeners were lucky to have two Rabello’s CDs out in stores. The first release,
A Voz e o Violão, was a live recording with vocalist
Nelson Gonçalves, a Brazilian legend. Gonçalves’s rich vocals form a haunting pair
along with Rabello’s guitar artistry. It was, however, with the other release,
Mestre Capiba, that Rabello soared.

The repertoire of Mestre Capiba paid homage to the giant of
frevo. What was more amazing is that the album focused
on Capiba’s serestas, instead of frevo. Each track had a guest vocalist, and the guest list included Paulinho da Viola,
Chico Buarque, Maria Bethânia and several others. The only noticeable repertoire omission was the song "Maria Bethânia." 

Multisets and Boxes

· Elis Regina: Transversal do Tempo
(21 CDs)

· Gilberto Gil: Palco (28 CDs)

· História do Nosso Samba (10 CDs)

· Nara Leão: Nara (15 CDs)

· Paulinho da Viola

· Songbook Braguinha (3 CDs)

As far as multi-sets go, Lumiar Discos started out 2002 with a 3-CD set of one of the most respected songwriters
in Brazilian music. Well known for Carnaval music,
Braguinha also wrote some other classic
serestas now forever a part of the Brazilian music songbook. As with any other Lumiar songbook collection, this set is full of big names in
Brazilian music. Another multi-set title was the 10-CD collection
História do Nosso Samba. The set is sold separately and is
a musical history lesson.

My only gripe about this collection is the lack of better liner notes and good track presentation. It would have been
nice to have the CDs follow a chronological order, from volume 1 to 10. Instead, the label chose to present each album in
a somewhat chronological order, but not quite rigid. In other words, each CD covers all periods of samba.

Last year also brought us many great box sets. Of notable mention, we had
Gilberto Gil‘s Palco (28 CDs), the reissue
of Elis Regina‘s Transversal do
Tempo (21 CDs)—too bad that the booklet from the first edition was omitted this
time—and Nara Leão‘s long-waited
Nara (15 CDs). Incidentally, a second set of Nara’s CDs, entitled
Leão, was to have been released in late November, but it has not come out yet. Also along with those box sets, the
Paulinho da Viola collection re-appeared on the market and vanished just as quickly. The CDs were sold separately.

Outside of Brazil

· Bebel Gilberto: De Tarde, Vendo o Mar

· Josee Koning: Dois Mundos

· Lisa Ono: Questa Bossa Mia…

In the international market, Brazilian music was again well represented, with the exception of
Bebel Gilberto‘s weak release De Tarde, Vendo o
Mar. The album clearly showed a singer unsure of what she was supposed to do with
her voice and with a long road ahead of her (the original recording dates back to 1991). Sometimes the vocals were
almost incomprehensible to my ears (and I’m a native Brazilian!) and were overpowered by the instrumentation. 

I was glad, though, that Brazilians had the chance to hear the magnificent
Josee Koning‘s Dois Mundos.
Originally released in the Netherlands in 1998, the CD was finally released in Brazil last year. Koning has definitely been noticed
in Brazil as you can see by the list of special guests in that album: Ivan Lins and Dori Caymmi.

Lisa Ono also released two albums in Japan last year. The first was a compilation of her hits from 1997 to 2001. The
other album, Questa Bossa Mia…, was Ono’s gift to Italy. The album features well-known Italian songs arranged by
the incomparable Brazilian maestro Mario Adnet (who also plays acoustic guitar in several tracks). Though the repertoire
is almost entirely of Italian songs, the sound is so Brazilian that I couldn’t resist including this album here.


· Cordel do Fogo Encantado: O Palhaço do Circo sem Futuro

· Elba Ramalho: Elba Canta Luiz

· Eugênio Leandro: Castelo Encantado

· Siba: Fuloresta do Samba

Elba Ramalho stuck to her roots and did her tribute to Luiz Gonzaga in
Elba Canta Luiz. Let’s not forget that just
in 2001, Gilberto Gil had already done several Gonzagão hits in
As Canções de `Eu, Tu, Eles’. Though the genre fits
Elba’s voice so well, this album was far from being original. Nevertheless, the result was good and very lively. Elba
is tantalizing singing forró.

A hard one to find, Eugênio
‘s fourth album, Castelo
Encantado, is worth any trouble you have to go
through in order to purchase it. His blend of regional and folk music is spellbinding. He wrote music to verses by
Oswald Barroso, Petrúcio Maia and even a poem by Gonçalves Dias.

Two other regional albums are also a must in any list.
Siba‘s Fuloresta do Samba and Cordel do Fogo
‘s O Palhaço do Circo sem
Futuro will place you in the middle of a celebration in the northeast of Brazil.
Fuloresta is the first solo project by the Mestre Ambrósio rabeca player. It’s full of
cirandas and maracatus.

Like Eugênio’s CD, Siba’s and Cordel’s releases are independent productions and very hard to be found. 

MPB and Pop

· Clara Sandroni & Marcos
: Saravá, Baden Powell!

· Gal Costa: Bossa Tropical

· Luciana Souza: Brazilian Duos

· Lucinha Lins: Canção

· Maria Bethânia: Maricotinha ao

· Milton Nascimento: Pietá

· Morelenbaum2 &
Sakamoto: Casa

· Nana Caymmi: O Mar e o

· Ney Matogrosso: Interpreta Cartola

· Olivia Hime: Mar de Algodão

· Rosa Passos: Azul

· Rosa Passos: Me and My Heart

· Simone: Feminina

· Trio Mocotó: Samba Rock

· Vânia Bastos: Canta Clube da

· Zé Renato & Wagner
: Memorial

Let’s take a look at the vast MPB musical scene. This was again a mixed bag, but I won’t spend too much time on
the weak releases. Among the disappointments, the perennial names of
Gal Costa and Simone take the honors of
continuing the same old thing and releasing albums with not much added to them. Why they cannot come close to
Maria Bethânia‘s Maricotinha ao
Vivo is a mystery to me.

Though a live recording with lots of old material,
Maricotinha ao Vivo was far better than Gal’s
Bossa Tropical and Simone’s Feminina.
Maricotinha ao Vivo moves you in the way that only Bethânia can do. Whether singing or
reading poetry, Bethânia knows how to control the stage and the material she performs.

Luciana Souza‘s Brazilian Duos (a 2003 Grammy nominee ) features three great acoustic guitarists: Romero
Lubambo, Marco Pereira and Walter Santos (her father). Luciana opens the album with a
baião medley accompanied by Marco Pereira’s stunning guitar in counterpoint with the excellent vocals.

The resurgence of Trio Mocotó with
Samba Rock was another highlight last year. The sound is so lively
and effervescent that one can hardly stand still listening to that release. It’s great party music. However, if a
more introspective sound is your cup of java, you are also in luck.
Rosa Passos released two albums last year. The
first release, Me and My Heart, was basically Rosa’s vocals accompanied by acoustic guitar. Very intimate. The
second release, Azul, was more dynamic. Passos’s repertoire concentrated primarily on Djavan and João Bosco. The album
was definitely more upbeat and showed how versatile Passos can be, something that her fans know quite well.

Several other artists decided to simply pick one composer to be featured in their albums.
Vânia Bastos stretched that a little by picking songs from the Clube da Esquina gang (Milton Nascimento, Ronaldo Bastos, Toninho Horta, etc.).
Nana Caymmi finally did her own tribute to her father, Dorival Caymmi. The CD,
O Mar e o Tempo, was very good, especially when one considers the number of Caymmi tributes that have been previously released.

Nana chose a good repertoire and included tunes not very often recorded. That gave
O Mar e o Tempo a fresh feeling, not to mention the nice arrangements by brother Dori Caymmi. An even more daring Caymmi tribute was released
by Olivia Hime. Her Mar de
Algodão was beautifully produced, arranged and performed. Besides the concept of
presenting Caymmi’s music as three seas—morning, afternoon and night—guest artists included Sérgio Santos and
Quarteto Maogani. Arrangements were by Paulo Aragão, Wagner Tiso and Francis Hime.

Following up on his remarkable Batuque CD,
Ney Matogrosso chose to sing only Cartola songs in
Interpreta Cartola. A polished production, as anything Matogrosso does, the CD has some seldom heard Cartola songs. Another
tribute album, Saravá, Baden Powell!, was released by
Clara Sandroni and Marcos Sacramento. Though Clara Sandroni has
a voice that might require some getting used to it, Marcos Sacramento was remarkable in his performances. Yet
another tribute must be mentioned here. Lucinha
did Canção
Brasileira, a very touching recording with the music of
Sueli Costa.

In closing, this retrospective of 2002 I could not omit what’s on the top of my list as best albums of last year:
Zé Renato and Wagner Tiso‘s beautiful
Memorial, Milton Nascimento‘s heartfelt
Pietá and Jacques/Paula Morelenbaum
& Ryuichi Sakamoto
‘s Jobiniano Casa, recorded at Tom Jobim’s home. Jobim’s heart and soul are all over that
release. Paula Morelenbaum’s voice was in rare form. It can’t get any better than that.

Memorial is lush with Wagner Tiso’s beautiful orchestrations without being excessive. There is a good balance
and moderation in how orchestra and voice blend. Zé Renato’s voice is smooth as ever. The repertoire in
Memorial focused on songs that marked former president Juscelino Kubitschek’s life (Kubitschek was the president who created
Brasília) as well as Brasília, Brazil’s capital.

Pietá goes back to the old Milton Nascimento of the Clube da Esquina captivating days. Without much fanfare
and advance media promotion, Milton released a fantastic album.
Pietá is Milton’s celebration to the women in his life.
His affection for Brazil’s greatest performers, such as Elis Regina and Ângela Maria, is present throughout the album.
The CD also marks the recording debut of Elis Regina and Cesar Camargo Mariano’s daughter, Maria Rita Mariano.
Two other female guests, Marina Machado and Simone Guimarães, also join Milton in other tracks.

In his spare time, Egídio Leitão maintains two sites about Brazilian music: Brasilian Music Links – – is
a collection of links, and MusicaBrasileira –
– is dedicated to reviews and interviews. He can
be contacted at

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