Jazz and soul diva Monday Michiru says goodbye to the millennium on this new collection and shimmies her way, crooning, cooing, swooping, and soaring -- as only she can -- into some new stylistic dimensions as well. While it's true that Michiru has courted Latin jazz styles before, she's never done so with such abandon and intensity as she does here. Even the soul tunes like "Play It by Ear" are kissed by Brazilian rhythms. This record is infectious, from the spunky Lalo Schifrin-style orchestrations of the title track, where Michiru is in fine form, putting forth her own signature R&B vocal on top of a Flora Purim-mannered samba groove. The optimism carnival kicks into full awing with "Emerald Life (Nunca Tan Fermosa Cosa Vida)." The tune is a fast samba in 5/8, then 9/8, shifting and turning back and forth and in on itself. The polyrhythms in the bottom end serve two purposes: they bring the listener in, body and mind, and shore up a ledge for Michiru to soar from, lifting off with lyrics so full of hope and light they would win over even the most dour cynic. "Full Bottle of Soul" is a paean to rebirth and leaving the wreckage of the past behind. Slightly funky, syncopated Roberta Flack-inflected soul-jazz gets caressed by Jobim and Broadway to bring the gorgeous, poetic lyrics down in the heart of the listener before Michiru takes off on a scat-singing journey accompanied by a koto. The disc closes with "Let Me In," one of the many Michiru-penned tunes on the set. The cut would have been a natural for Laura Nyro to cut, or Flack for that matter, but it sounds best, right here with the voice of its author who makes its exhortation to change ring true and consonant to her chosen theme of grateful partings and new beginnings. Michiru, despite her completely lack of a profile in the United States, is one of the finest soul-jazz singers in the world. That she is also an accomplished composer and an instrumentalist to be reckoned with makes her triply so. With each new album, Michiru adds to the already prolific and consistent vision she has displayed since her first album a decade ago. Optimista is a highly recommended record to see out the millennium with, and will be remembered long after the New Year's bell chimes.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek