Tardes Cariocas

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The multi-talented Brazilian songstress Joyce once said that as a composer she owed everything to Antonio Carlos Jobim. He later returned the compliment by publicly declaring her "one of the greatest singers of all time"! Tardes Cariocas ("Rio Afternoon"), her ninth album, marked her debut as an independent producer. The record had a tough act to follow as her previous release, Feminina, was a huge success. This is Joyce's most mature album, the work of a remarkable musician with a subtle sense of timing and distinctive vocal timbre; its lush production miles away from her earlier releases, especially from Passarinho Urbano ("Urban Bird"), a politically engaged acoustic album. It is also an intriguing record with almost syrupy melodies (sometimes verging on the cheesy, like the soloing saxophone on "Luz Do Chao" and "Ela") but at each listen it peels and reveals layers of complex, jazzy harmonies alongside unexpected turns and modulations. The epic "Baracumbara" (with Egberto Gismonti on accordion and ten-string guitar) slowly builds up and finally climaxes in a frenzy of frenetic rhythms and busy vocals. A smooth and sensual flute motif then leads into the soothing melody of the beautiful "Tardes Cariocas" and its lazy samba syncopations. Even though the lyrics are in Portuguese, Joyce's expressive voice carries a strong poetic imagery: she described her writing as "Manlandragem" (streetwise) and some of her more overtly political tracks were banned by the military dictatorship during the harsh climate of the '70s. The album successfully marries Latin and jazz music, a logical progression as Joyce grew up listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Thelonious Monk. She also translated some of the jazz phrasing to her own singing style (a sort of joyous Brazilian scat), a technique that she favors and uses often like on "Nacional Kid," a song attacking the Latin male psyche. "Suor" closes the record on a more reflective note, accompanied by Mauro Senise's melancholic flute riff. Tardes Cariocas is a bittersweet musical love letter, a vibrant poetic homage to Joyce's city, Rio de Janeiro, and its people, the Cariocas.

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