Luciana Souza

The New Bossa Nova

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For her sixth recording and first on a major label (Verve), Luciana Souza's concept of "new bossa nova" is melding Brazilian rhythms onto adult contemporary folk-pop MOR songs. She sings lyrics exclusively in English. The stamp of Joni Mitchell, aided and abetted by producer Larry Klein, makes this image unmistakable immediately from the first tune, Joni's "Down to You." Souza sounds exactly like Mitchell in her melancholic phrasing during "Were You Blind That Day" and "You and the Girl." She is more herself on the closer, the straight Brazilian classic by Jobim "Waters of March," the Sting-penned minimalistic romantic pleader "When We Dance," and the lone non-Latin silken-tinged "Satellite." High-level musicianship from the pristine, crystalline tones of pianist Edward Simon, restrained guitarist Romero Lubambo, and occasional saxophonist Chris Potter raises the quality a hundredfold. The tunes range from slow to midtempo; overall, this is a sultry program of romantic ballads and softly toned introspective tracks. Source material comes from the aforementioned authors and lesser-known compositions from Leonard Cohen, Steely Dan's Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Becker with Klein, Randy Newman, Michael McDonald, and Brian Wilson. Perhaps the selection that will draw most attention is James Taylor's "Never Die Young," with Souza and Taylor singing separate lines and in unison during the latter part of the piece. After having tackled poems of Elizabeth Bishop and Pablo Neruda, along with the Brazilian music of her homeland, this recording marks a change for Souza. It is similar to Herbie Hancock's Gershwin's World in a belief that established music needs to be either modified or updated. Souza's voice is nearly perfect, thoughtful, sweet, and beautiful, and that alone should win her new fans. Whether previous devotees can be sold by this new direction is something only time will tell.

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