Luciana Souza

Norte E Sul (North And South)

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To be an excellent singer of standards, whether jazz or Brazilian or otherwise, an artist must possess a strong yet subtle voice and work with a sympathetic band. To really endear him or herself to fans, though, he or she must also know their repertoire; not only which songs to sing, but how to sing them: which parts to embrace and which to re-imagine (and, of course, the amounts of both). Any of these skills are enough to spark a solid record, but Luciana Souza has all of them, and thus her work is usually brilliant. North and South is the third album of what Souza terms a trilogy -- the first was a tribute to poet Elizabeth Bishop, the second a collection of her arrangements of traditional Brazilian songs (Brazilian Duos). She closes out the series by balancing standards from America and Brazil (thus the title), appropriately recalling her Brazilian forebears Sylvia Telles and Elis Regina, as well as contemporary jazz singers like Cassandra Wilson or Diana Krall. The two side-openers, Jobim's standards "Chega de Saudade" and "Corcovado," are simply enchanting, but the first especially so, one of the best versions of the master heard in many years. On her own arrangement, Souza draws out the lyric even while the rest of the band cuts out for a nimble rewriting of the scales by pianist Edward Simon, resulting in a performance that's simply breathtaking. The American standards "All of Me" and "When Your Lover Has Gone" are the only disappointments here (and only in comparison), Souza giving in to an evocation of the notoriously fragile-voiced Astrud Gilberto.

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