On this excellent album, Brazilian singer Joyce is surrounded by important jazz musicians Joe Lovano, Mulgrew Miller, Renee Rosnes, and Romero Lubambo, along with competent musicians Rodolfo Stroeter, Dori Caymmi, Guello, and Tutty Moreno. The release is a tribute to Elis Regina, one of the best singers of MPB, and Joyce interprets only songs recorded by her, except for the opening track "Samba Pra Elis," composed by Joyce/Paulo César Pinheiro. The sophisticated and extremely dissonant harmonies foretell a daring release in the MPB vein, serving at the same time as a good vehicle for Lovano's expression. Following the delicious samba-jazz line, you have "Canto de Ossanha" (one of the Afro sambas by Baden Powell/Vinícius de Moraes), "Upa Neguinho," "Astronauta" (which has a stronger bossa accent), "Folhas Secas" (by Nelson Cavaquinho/Guilherme de Brito, correct in the evocation of its hills' origins in the cuíca/tamborim percussion, mixed with Joyce's bossa violão), "Querelas Do Brasil" (reminiscing the association of Regina with new composers revealed by her, in this case, Maurício Tapajós/Aldir Blanc), and the best rendition of all, the extraordinarily swinging "Menino Das Laranjas" (Theo de Barros). The lyrical, melancholic, and dramatic feel of Regina is remembered in Milton Nascimento's "Morro Velho," "O Cantador" (by Dori and Nelson Motta, with some of Dori's distinctive vocalises and violão), "Essa Mulher" (Joyce/Ana Terra), and "Na Batucada Da Vida" (Ary Barroso/Luiz Peixoto). The immortal classic "Aquarela Do Brasil" by Ary Barroso (which had two million performances in the U.S.A. around 1943/1945 under the title of "Brazil") receives a treatment reminiscent of the mineiro sound of Som Imaginário here, more fluid and less marked than in the traditional samba interpretation. Bossa nova is in "Waters of March" sung in English by Caymmi and Joyce, and even the pop side of Regina is remembered in Gilberto Gil's "Oriente," with appropriate evocations of the East in the tablas and in the exotic scales. A strong vocal album, both in the rhythmic and in the heartfelt numbers, having additional interest brought by the superb instrumental performances.
Astronauta: Songs of Elis Review
by Alvaro Neder