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Like Caetano Veloso with Fina Estampa or Milton Nascimento with Crooner before him, Djavan is the last of the great Brazilian artists to decide that, after 30-plus years of songwriting excellence, the time has come to indulge in an all-covers album. Even his choice of repertoire is similar, comprising mostly personal or family favorites from his childhood and adolescence; from classic sambas to Frank Sinatra, from Tom Jobim to '70s MPB. Unlike Veloso's and Nascimento's lavish productions, however, Djavan's tribute is a much humbler one, as most of Aria consists only of his voice and guitar with tasteful but sparse accompaniment by guitarist Torcuato Mariano, upright bassist André Vasconcelos, and percussionist Marcos Suzano. This is all the more striking as, since at least the '80s, Djavan's music typically has a strong pop foundation of electric bass and guitars, keyboards, synths, and drums. The acoustic nature of Aria has a variety of effects, some revealing, some paradoxical. In the first place, it gives a common identity to an assortment of songs culled from many different composers; on the down side, it tends to make all these different songs sound quite similar to one another. Secondly, as beautiful as Aria often gets, it somehow rarely feels like a Djavan album. As with all major artists, Djavan has a unique authorial voice both as a composer and as a singer, and his own presence looms strangely subdued in this collection of loving, respectful renditions. Of course, as Djavan is blessed with a gorgeous voice and impeccable taste, to hear him happily moonlighting to the timeless creations of Gilberto Gil, Cartola, Chico Buarque and Edu Lobo, Tom Jobim, or Luiz Gonzaga is nothing but a joy. Another especial treat comes when he lets loose his well-known jazz sensibility, as in the scat of the sublime opener "Disfarça e Chora," or in his fine take on the standard "Fly Me to the Moon." The short answer: while Aria is probably not essential addition to Djavan's discography, it is nevertheless unimpeachably lovely.

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