Zélia Duncan / Simone

Ao Vivo: Amigo e Casa

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Another exquisite Biscoito Fino release, this live CD/DVD documenting the encounter of singers Simone and Zélia Duncan constitutes an eloquent testimony to the ever astounding depth of Brazilian music, in terms of genres, composers, and performers. Indeed, the sheer number of superior female vocalists alone is astonishing. Take, for instance, Simone and Zélia Duncan. Both may be relatively unknown to international audiences compared to, say, Elis Regina or Gal Costa, but Simone was a superstar in Brazil in the '70s and '80s, and Zélia Duncan is one of the most interesting new voices that emerged in the '90s, together with Adriana Calcanhotto and Marisa Monte. Despite their difference in age, Simone and Zélia Duncan have in common rich, deep-register voices, peerless expressivity, and unerring taste (as well as extensive knowledge of Brazilian music) when it comes to choosing a repertoire. For their first tour together (Zélia had previously participated in Simone's 2005 live album), they can even afford the luxury not to rely on standards -- in fact, at least half the songs had not been previously recorded by either of the two. It appears clear that this show was conceived as a coherent whole to explore and integrate two creative personalities, rather than as an excuse to go over each singer's better-known hits. True to their musical curiosity, Simone and Zélia Duncan put together an eclectic set that seamlessly mixes the old with the new, picking gems (some fairly well known, some obscure) by composers from different generations and Brazilian regions, including Paulinho Moska, Arnaldo Antunes, Milton Nascimento, Sueli Costa and Abel Silva, Cássia Eller, Itamar Assumpção, Luiz Tatit, Guilherme Arantes, Gonzaguinha, and Roberto & Erasmo Carlos, among others. There is room for a solo mini-recital of four songs by each singer, but of course the heart of this album consists of Zélia and Simone's ten duets. None is more representative of the spirit of their reunion than the opening, Caetano Veloso's marvelous "Alguém Cantando." Indeed, this brief, humble, and moving-beyond-words celebration of the human voice and the pleasure of singing -- both the act, and listening to it -- is exactly what this record is about.

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