The Portuguese word "raiz" translates to "roots" in English. On this date, the iconic Brazilian singer Joyce Moreno celebrates 50 years in the music business by returning to them. She and her band explore classic bossa and samba tunes from the Brazilian canon with the kind of elegance and grace that have been hallmarks of her career. In addition to singing, she is both guitarist and musical director. Her band includes husband Tutty Moreno on drums and percussion, bassist Rodolfo Stroeter, and jazz pianist Helio Alves. The program is rich, filled with tunes from some of Brazil's greatest composers. Two highlights are "O Barquinho" and "Nos E O Mar" by Roberto Menescal. He discovered Moreno in 1964 after hearing a home recording of her and assisted greatly in launching her career. Though she's thanked him publicly before, she does so again here -- he is the only guest, playing guitar on both of his songs. The inventively arranged two-song medley of Dorival Caymmi tunes, "Vestido de Bolero"/"Requebre Que Eu Dou Um Doce," is a set highlight. Also included are Tom Jobim and Vinicius De Moraes' "Desafinado," which gets a gorgeous reading as its folk roots peer through bossa and jazz. Jobim's "O Morro Nao Tom Vez" beams through burning samba. The set's greatest surprise, however, is inclusion of Luiz Eça's "Tamba," delivered in a gorgeous arrangement with Moreno's chanted vocal as percussion and piano ride atop a groove that walks the line between Sergio Mendes' "Mais Que Nada" and Afro-Cuban jazz. The closer, "Canto de Yasaan" by Baden Powell and Ildásio Tavares, is introduced by electric bass harmonics before a crystalline piano whispers to the fore. In this number, Moreno is her most vocally expressive, allowing the emotional power in lyric and melody to come through unrestrained by the nuance or arrangement. Raiz is gorgeous. It offers continued -- and inspired -- proof that Moreno remains one of the great interpretive singers in the Brazilian MPB tradition. Add to this that her skills as a guitarist and arranger are undiminished by time, and the word "iconic" fits like a glove.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek