If Antonio Carlos Jobim was the George Gershwin of Brazil, the prolific Luiz Bonfá is the Brazilian equivalent of Cole Porter or Irving Berlin. An expressive interpreter of lyrics -- both English and Portuguese -- Ithamara Koorax pays tribute to the Brazilian icon on Almost in Love: Ithamara Koorax Sings Luiz Bonfá (which percussionist/arranger Arnaldo DeSouteiro produced in 1995 and 1996). This Brazilian release wasn't the first time that a singer -- Brazilian or otherwise -- paid homage to Bonfá, and it won't be the last. But Almost in Love isn't a run-of-the-mill, dime-a-dozen tribute album. Whether she is singing in Portuguese or English, Koorax invests a great deal of emotion into these gems -- emotionally, she really goes that extra mile. Portuguese, which is Koorax's is primary language, is the language she embraces on memorable interpretations of "Vida," "Correnteza," "Amor Sem Adeus," "Menina Flor," and "Perdido de Amor." However, Koorax is equally convincing when she sings in English on "The Gentle Rain," "Almost in Love," "Non-Stop to Brazil," and "Say Goodbye." Some Bonfá treasures have both Portuguese and English lyrics; two examples are the haunting "Manhã de Carnaval" and the charming "Samba de Orfeu," both from the 1959 Brazilian film The Black Orpheus. Koorax probably would have excelled on "Happy Samba" (the English-language version of "Samba de Orfeu") or "A Day in the Life of a Fool" (the English-language version of "Manhã de Carnaval"), but she chooses the Portuguese lyrics instead and gives first-rate performances. Although many of these songs are standards, Koorax also unearths some treasures that haven't been heard as often -- "Empty Glass," for example, is a lesser-known ballad that was written for Peggy Lee in the '60s. From well-known standards to overlooked gems, this superb CD is among Koorax's finest accomplishments.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson