This is Carol Saboya’s North American solo debut album and she has chosen to sing the songs of great Brazilian composers that may be familiar to American audiences, though not necessarily as jazz composers primarily. Ivan Lins is probably thought of first for his pop music smash hit, “Love Dance” performed by Simone (Simone Bittencourt de Oliveira) which numbers as one of the most re-recorded songs in musical history. the other Brazilian composer is none other than Milton Nascimento who is most known as a founder of the Clube da Esquina (“corner club”) movement, a kind of Brazilian Fusion music, to put it in terms an American might identify with.
Already established as a premier recording artist in her native Brazil and in Japan, with eight albums to her credit, this one hit the streets here in the U.S. on July 10 and she features guest appearances by saxophonist Dave Liebman and harmonica master Hendrik Meurkens (who we reviewed back in May), and was produced and arranged by renowned pianist (and Saboya’s father) Antonio Adolfo.
On Belezas Saboya gives us songs both in Portuguese and English, including a new translation of Lins’s “Estrela Guia” — a paean to Nascimento — by the New York Voices’ Kim Nazarian that was commissioned by the composer especially for this project. Perhaps my favorite tune from the album is “Tarde”, Nascimento’s beautiful ballad. Liebman’s tenor just weaves the melody into gold and the tune makes you want to spend a lazy sunny day in the sun. Also, “Bola de Meia, Bola de Gude” (Sock Ball and Marbles), a lively baião/maracatu is also of note.
The entire album is delightful in the way Saboya’s father, Antonio Adolfo arranged the songs in order to “build a bridge” between the two great composers, Milton and Ivan. “I brought some of Ivan’s harmony style to Milton and vice-versa, those intervals of fourths pioneered by McCoy Tyner and Chick Corea. And in one of Ivan’s songs I use phrases from the first song that Milton presented at a festival in 1967. They have much in common. They came to the scene at the same moment, when there was a very strong musical movement.” says Adolfo.
Adolfo anchors the star studded quartet on piano with bassist Jorge Helder (often heard with Chico Buarque and Maria Bethânia); drummer Rafael Barata (Edu Lobo, Rosa Passos, Mônica Salmaso); and guitarist Claudio Spiewak, who’s recorded with a wide range of Latin music stars from Nestor Torres to Elba Ramalho.
But it is Saboya’s voice that leads the ensemble with her subtle and energetic delivery and whose dynamics tie the free flow of the interpretations together into a special gift. It acts as a fifth instrument, and softly leads the way through this twelve song mini summer vacation for the ears. Get on board and let her seduce you with Brazilian music which is neither canned nor a parody of the genre but a masterful presentation and melding of two giants of composition, her fathers arrangements and her wonderful musical skills.