Welcome to Short Takes, your quick source review column of the best
Brazilian music currently available. We hope you’ll turn to our column
for the latest advice on what’s hot and what’s not. Let’s begin! Now that
everyone is back to school, we though it fitting to review the progress
of MPB’s hottest stars and where they stand in the MPB Class of ’96. With
all of the generational changes continuing with Brazil’s current “old
guard,” will these up and coming artists turn out to contenders or
just pretenders? And because music, like life, isn’t just “pass or
fail,” you may be surprised to see how your favorites did.
Leila Pinheiro – A+
Continuing her long string of successful releases, the newly released
Catavento e Girassol is a fine collection of songs from Aldir Blanc
and Guinga. Her consistent drive for excellence has led to many great musical
moments from the hands of Brazil’s top producers. César Camargo
Mariano brought us Coisas do Brasil, closely followed by João
Augusto’s memorable Isso É Bossa Nova. The fact that other
artists also use these same producers with lesser results is proof that
Pinheiro’s star shines brightest. For a real treat, check out her work
on Sadao Watanabe’s In Tempo CD (Verve), where she makes her English
debut with four other vocals. And that rumor about Leila Pinheiro being
the next Elis Regina? It’s no longer a rumor. Its a fact.
Emílio Santiago – A+
His career probably qualifies as the most astonishing rebound in Brazilian
musical history, and Santiago shows no sign of letting up. After selling
more than 3 million copies of his seven Aquarelas Brasileiras albums,
his Perdido de Amor is a sensational tribute to Brazil’s Bossa past
and specifically, Dick Farney. The title track samples the opening arrangement
and sets the tone for a collection worthy of special mention. Others, like
“Nick Bar” are crafted in the best tradition of Rio in the 60s
and “Você” is revitalized by Santiago’s strong sensual
voice. And don’t pass up the new Aquarelas collection from Som Livre.
The 3 CD box set: 14 on his best romantic ballads, his 14 greatest hits
and an even dozen of his best sambas. Brazil needed Emílio Santiago,
so went to find him. João Gilberto has more magic, it’s true, but
talented heir apparent Santiago delivers the warmth and beauty without
Marina Lima – D
Marina Lima’s Abrigo marked a turning point for her recording
career which seemed poised for a major success. Earlier albums like the
US release of A Tug On The Line and her multilingual self-titled
CD provided listeners and fans with a fresh perspective on Brazilian pop:
Lima’s stylish voice and carefully chosen material from musicians such
as Terence Trent D’Arby and Jorge Dalto gave us something to cheer about.
Less cheerful however, is Abrigo and its fascination with the unusual.
Framed by an elegance in both picture and word, Lima paints a canvas best
described as subtly flamboyant. Songs like “Admito Que Perdi”
and “Rap da Diferença” are experimental and even the Irving
Berlin classic “Blue Skies” receives a charismatic twist. Others
including Jobim’s “Samba do Avião” and “O Que Tinha
de Ser” are covered with a detached sense of style. Lima’s great ability
to take the usual and make it unusual succeeds here (once again under the
direction of Liminha), but in this case, the unusual is too much to take.
Flavio Venturini – B
His presence as a songwriter and hit maker on the rise, Venturini continues
to deliver solid, sometime inspired work in the studio as a headliner.
94’s Noites com Sol provided an intriguing platform for producer
Torcuato Mariano with remakes of songs like “Sobre o Mar,” Bruce
Hornsby’s “Across the River” and the outstanding “Nuvens.”
Venturini’s new Beija Flor makes room for compositions from Lo Borges
(“Para Lennon and McCartney”) and co-writer Ronaldo Bastos on
the title track. Leo Gandelman (see below) adds his instrumental flair
on “Nós Dois Aqui” to make the album a keeper.
Segio Mendes – A+
Although it’s been over 4 years since his last album Brasileiro,
Mendes’ new release Oceano was worth the wait. Mendes is being called
the “Quincy Jones of Brazilian Music” because of his ability
to draw out the wealth of international talent lined up for this project.
Oceano includes Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Simone, Hermeto Pascoal,
Zucchero and even Emmanuel in a stunning collection of Brazilian pop with
world wide appeal. No other Brazilian, not even Jobim could target one
song (Djavan’s “Oceano” or “Puzzle of Hearts”) as an
international hit in three languages. With a signature sound as identifiable
as that of Família Jobim or the New Band, Mendes is our best bet
to take the place of our dearly departed Tom. Don’t look for Brasileiro‘s
Grammy to be repeated here, but don’t pass by this ***** album.
Joyce – C
After making a great debut in the US with Music Inside and the
follow-up Language and Love, Joyce has chosen to concentrate her
talent on the Brazilian and Japanese markets, with only limited success
in clearing new ground. A good live CD found its way here, but left us
wondering what was new with one of Brazil’s most enduring female composers.
Now comes Ilha Brasil, which finds Joyce in the unusual role of
fronting a big band for several of the albums 14 tracks. “Samba da
Zona” leads off the album, setting the tone for a menagerie of musical
style and experimentation. “Havana-me” is a brief reflection
of traditional Cuba and a wonderful centerpiece for the album. Other tracks,
however left us wanting more of what we’ve come to love from Joyce, and
less rap and pseudo-funk that dots this album’s musical landscape. No doubt
slow Brazilian sales will have the same effect on Joyce that they have
on most top performers. Look for a solid polished album from Joyce next
Leo Gandleman -A
“Wait! He’s a sax player, not MPB!” you might say, but no
other Brazilian instrumental performer comes close to Leo Gandelman’s innate
sense of pop musicianship. As musical boundaries expand, so does Leo Gandelman,
voted seven years running as the best Brazil has to offer. His new Pérolas
Negras (Black Pearls) is a star studded collection of compositions
by Afro-Brazilian songwriters including Moacyr Santos (“Nana”),
Jorge Ben (“Mais Que Nada”), Cartola (“As Rosas Nao Falam”)
and Milton Nascimento (“Clube da Esquina No. 2”). Special guest
Zizi Possi appears for “Faltando um Pedaço,” as does Paulinho
da Viola on his own “Choro Negro.” The track that has all of
Rio talking is “Me Deixa em Paz” with vocalist Luís Melodia.
It’s achieved a level of recognition that few instrumental artists currently
receive in Brazil: strong radio play. Our advice? Buy the CD and turn the
Jane Duboc – B
Although Jane Duboc isn’t yet ranked among the top of MPB performers,
its only a matter of time before she becomes the household word that her
talent deserves. Possessing a warm, sensitive voice that runs the gamut
of emotion, Duboc can deliver softly sensual ballads or highly powered
pop songs. Her US presence is limited to a few forgettable Movieplay albums
and her sensational recording with the late Gerry Mulligan, Paraíso
with many of the songs written especially for the album. A new Movieplay
disc, From Brazil to Japan, is a collection of songs recently included
in her tours through Japan and features a bevy of true Brazilian rhythms.
The marcha-rancho beat is found in “As Pastorinhas,” the chorinho
in “Curare and the baião in “Pisa na Fulô.”
But while Movieplay has been a solid platform for Duboc, it may not be
the label that she needs to step up with MPB’s best performers.
João Bosco – B
Although some retailers will tell you that Bosco’s Na Onda Que Balança
is his latest album, pass it up and look for Dá Licença
Meu Senhor, a real gem and far superior to anything he’s recorded since
his self titled Columbia CD a few years back. Bosco’s avant garde, scatting
approach to Bossa and MPB has taken him to some unusual places over the
past few years, resulting in often uneven recordings. But the spark of
brilliance always remains and Dá Licença, Meu Senhor is a
solid recording that places Bosco’s feet firmly on the ground. Credit his
own production as a key to his current success. Gone are the embellished
arrangements of Ronnie Foster, to be replaced by Bosco’s rhythmic guitar
and tonal play. Never one to avoid a fork in the road, Bosco remains unique
and his style holds credit to no one. Favorites include “Se Você
Jurar,” a pleasant Bossa, and “Desafinado,” a tribute to
Jobim and just as authentic as the original, albeit completely different
in its scaled down approach to the song.
That’s it for this month. Next time we’ll review our picks for best
Bossa albums, along with some surprises that will really turn your head.
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