Kevin Le Gendre 2011-09-22
Since its birth in the mid-50s, bossa nova has been one of Brazil’s greatest gifts to modern music. Rhythm, harmony and melody blend with such fluidity and lightness of touch that the notes don’t so much bounce as skip into sensual life.
A vocalist such as Sabrina Malheiros has the kind of finesse in her timbre and delivery to uphold the legacy of the genre’s iconic exponents, reaching right back to Elis Regina via Flora Purim and Joyce.This third album from the 30-something Carioca is an assured confirmation of the potential that marked her 2005 debut, Equilibria; but there are still a few steps left for her take along the evolutionary ladder before she delivers a true chef d’oeuvre.
On the plus side, Malheiros has a highly competent supporting cast that includes her father Alex, bassist of Brazilian jazz-fusion institution Azymuth, as well as drummer Robertino Silva, and the precision and purring warmth of the rhythm and horn section pay big dividends on Opará and Primeira.
Again, in accordance with bossa’s core vocabulary, the use of a bridge with a fey descending chord sequence delivers the customary killer blow of moody melancholia that is hard to resist.On the minus side, the material, co-written and produced by Daniel ‘Venom’ Maunick, can tend to the derivative at times.
When the arrangements edge into more overtly soulful terrain, the ghost of Banda Black Rio or Paulinho da Costa, the veteran percussionist whose superb mid-70s albums have supplied The Black Eyed Peas with some of their best breaks, creates a sense of déjà vu that is more than a touch discomfiting.
Sensitive to the need for the subtlety and grace that define the bossa genre, Maunick steers, for the most part, an artful course through acoustic and electric streams; but there are moments when he could rock out towards murkier, choppier waters that reflect more explicitly his proven credentials in the world of drum‘n’bass. He is possibly being too understated, and occasionally the music falls dangerously near to the misty chill-out zone that did for Bebel Gilberto.