I was more than a little surprised in noting Cristina Braga's Samba, Jazz and Love being issued on the Enja label. It's head honcho, Matthias Winckelmann, has been a very interesting character in the business and never compromises on his wide-ranging aesthetics travelling from trad jazz to world strains to outside musics. When you buy an Enja disc, you're in for an interesting and quality listen no matter what it's genre, even when things get hectic and spacey…and, trust me, some of Enja's stuff can get pretty woolly. But singer Cristina Braga is far from those lights, instead a traditionalist who refines and embellishes The Great Latinate Songbook. Not only that, but she plays a harp and chose to include vibes in her backing band. In fact, that very factor—the selection of who and what would grace this breathily luminous disc—is sublime: harp, vibes, double-bass, trumpet & flugelhorn, alfaia drums & tambourin. Just that and nothing more.
Braga, sitting in a spartan but quietly lush environment, is the very essence of soft, romantic, breathy sensuality unencumbered by the thousand and one soap opera complications modern humanoids cherish so neurotically (ever notice how the modern love song is a bit too frequently a good deal more pathological than erotic?). This alone is refreshing and perhaps why she chose the ensemble as she has, for a smoother than silk, gently flowing characteristic that nonetheless harbors intriguing little pools of slow vivacity. Canta Mais brings unexpected airs of Chet Baker in Jesse Sadoc's horn lines, offset first by Arthur Dutra's Gary Burton-esque vibes and then Braga's harp. But my favorite cut is the instrumental Triste de Quem, 7:16 of pure understated bliss. Braga's voice is always enticing and balmily soporific, but she and the band hold forth very nicely indeed whether she's encanting or not.
Samba, Jazz and Love is the perfect companion to all those brilliant Braziliana CDs the Zoho label has been issuing for years, a disc that captures every essence of the now rococo styles that continue to attract ears old and young. It's been many years since Antonio Carlos Jobim and his compeers hit the global music scene, but the effects and refinements of that auspicious event continue to develop and broaden while, interestingly, ever re-investing the baseline as having been born in perfection. One of the playbook's enduring legends is Astrud Gilberto, and it's to her voice that many identify the vogue of the movement (Girl from Ipanema was, after all, the hit that woke planet Earth up to what was cooking down south of the equator). Listening to Cristina Braga reminds all of us why that was so.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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