Judy Roberts Band / Judy Roberts

Nights in Brazil

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In 1981, Judy Roberts' Inner City release Nights in Brazil found her maintaining a quiet storm orientation while incorporating Brazilian elements at times. The Chicago singer wasn't trying to be Astrud Gilberto or Flora Purim -- for one thing, she doesn't sing in Portuguese and sticks to English lyrics (which is just as well, because one shouldn't try to sing in a foreign language unless he/she feels totally comfortable doing so). Apart from Victor Feldman's "Starlight Haunted Ballroom" and Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady," there isn't much on Nights in Brazil that can honestly be called straight-ahead jazz. For the most part, Nights in Brazil is an album of R&B/pop with jazz and Brazilian overtones. Most of the album (which Japan's P-Vine label reissued on CD in 2002) needs to be judged by R&B/pop standards rather than jazz standards, and when R&B/pop standards are applied, one concludes that it is generally decent (if less than remarkable). No one will accuse Roberts of having a big voice or a mind-blowing range -- her voice is definitely thin. But despite her limitations, she is sweetly likable on laid-back tracks like "Carnival in Rio," Ivan Lins' "Common Ground," and the Michael Jackson hit "I Can't Help It" (which Stevie Wonder co-wrote for the King of Pop's multi-platinum Off the Wall album of 1979). Nights in Brazil demonstrates that a singer doesn't have to be blessed with major chops to deliver a worthwhile album -- that is evident on the quiet storm fare that dominates the CD as well as Roberts' occasional detours into straight-ahead jazz. Some of Roberts' admirers will argue that she recorded her best albums in the '90s, and they're right. But her Inner City releases of the early '80s aren't bad. Although not a masterpiece, Nights in Brazil is a pleasant footnote in the history of quiet storm music.

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