Until his song "Guarapiranga" was prominently featured in the film Silver Linings Playbook, Brazilian singer/songwriter Toco (aka Tomaz di Cunto) was unknown to most audiences outside Italy (where he resides) and his native land. Memoria is his debut for Milan's illustrious Schema label, which is also home to Nicola Conte and Gerardo Frisina. This set was produced by the veteran S-Tone (multi-instrumentalist Stefano Tirone) in Milan. Though the lineup is often varied and large, the center of this glorious mix is Toco's clean, warm, sensual voice in songs that wed classic bossa and jazz. That said, despite its roots in a classic age -- the early '60s -- this is far from a "retro" date. Production and arrangements are thoroughly contemporary, and utterly without excess. Informed by and contributing to the legacy of jazz, bossa nova is timeless in its appeal, especially when songs are as well-crafted as these. Toco's core group features Roberto Taufic on acoustic guitar, Eduardo Taufic on piano and Rhodes, Edu Hebling on double bass, and the great Mauro Martins on drums. It is appended selectively by S-Tone's electric guitar and Wurlitzer, horns, backing vocalists, and the String Island Quartet on four cuts. "Minas" is a sultry, summery bossa with acoustic guitar framed by twinkling Rhodes, additional percussion, and backing singers. Toco's voice glides atop a shimmering groove fueled by Martins. Beppe Caruso also delivers an exacting yet relaxed trombone break. "O Tempo é Aqui" is a minor-key samba. Toco's melancholic vocal is colored by mournful acoustic guitar, brightened somewhat by fluid percussion, and given emotional support from a trio of singers and a seamless tonal meld of piano and Rhodes. "Rainha" is a jazzed-up samba duet with Nina Miranda. Guitar, drums, and percussion engage in active interplay, further encouraged by the string group and finally given flight by Marco Brioschi's flügelhorn solo. The two sparest cuts here, "Divino" and closer "Bate," both feature the String Island Quartet with the core group and percussion -- the latter also features S-Tone's electric guitar. Though contrasting, they illustrate vast textural and timbral possibilities. The former is a simmering bossa; the string players add acceleration and depth while in the latter, nearly a lament, they provide drama. Yet none of this would matter if Toco's elegant voice didn't resonate with such presence and command all the musicians present. His phrasing, while quite unique, walks a line between the finest in the Brazilian tradition's lineage and the graceful sense of timing and syncopation in jazz. Memoria is Toco's strongest date yet; it is a full realization of what his music has promised since the very beginning.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek