So, a U.S. saxophonist wants to bring to international attention a Brazilian singer and so they make an album together and, guess what, it’s fabulous! A familiar tale, but this is 2015, not 1964, the saxophonist is not tenor man Stan Getz but soprano expert Paul Winter, and the singer is not João Gilberto from Rio de Janeiro but Renato Braz from São Paulo.
They are strikingly different singers. Gilberto whispers in your ear, his phrasing daringly ahead of the beat; Braz has a high clarion tenor – think the sweetness and fragility of Caetano Veloso with the high facility of Milton Nascimento – and sits more firmly on the beat. What Braz and Gilberto have in common is the ability to raise the hairs on the back of my neck, to make Portuguese sound like the language of heaven, and to have me undecided as to whether I am going to break out into beaming smiles or break down in tears. These are the singers you want to share with people you love. In a Nick Hornby High Fidelity nerd-laddish world, an appreciation of their wonderfulness might even be the determining factor in considering the feasibility of a long-term relationship.
Sure, Winter plays a more low-key role in this album compared to Getz’s in the Getz/Gilberto album and he can lean towards a sugariness in his undeniably pretty solos, but his taste in championing this music is impeccable. But it’s Braz who quite rightly fills the spotlight throughout.
I reckon he could probably move me singing the most average of computer-composed pop pap, but of course a Brazilian singer has some of the finest songs of the last century at their disposable, and Braz chooses wisely: Mario Gil and Cesar Pinheiro’s Anabela, Dori Caymmi and Nelson Motta’s O Cantador (one of my absolute favourites from this genre), Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes’ Eu Não Existo Sem Voce, Ivan Lins and Marina Colasanti’s Acqua Maria, Chico Buarque and Edu Lobo’s Na Ilha De Lia, No Barco De Rosa and Djalma Tinoco, Fatima Guedes and Rosane Lessa’s Chora Brasileira. And then there are new discoveries like Theo de Barros and Geraldo Vandré’s Disparada, and Oscar Castro-Neves and Luvercy Fiorini’s Onde Está Você? And hear Braz at his most exposed on Ze do Norte’s Sodade, Meu Bem, Sodade.
The settings are sometimes a single acoustic guitar, sometimes a small group with accordion or cello highlights, sometimes with full strings.
Saudade is a gorgeous album from start to finish and Renato Braz my most exciting new discovery of the year so far.
Categories: CD review