The Poems of Elizabeth Bishop and Other Songs

Luciana Souza

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The Poems of Elizabeth Bishop and Other Songs Review

by David R. Adler

Luciana Souza moves to the Sunnyside label for her second album, an ambitious project focusing on the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979). In all, four of Bishop's poems receive original musical treatments. But in a rather bold move, Souza includes two of her own song-poems, "Daze" and "Do Tell," which stand up quite well in comparison. Six more originals with wordless vocals complete the program. Souza's partners in this endeavor -- pianist Bruce Barth, saxophonist Chris Cheek, bassist John Lockwood, and drummer Marlon Browden -- do a superb job with her delicate but often quite difficult material. Barth and Souza go it alone on two of the Bishop poems, "Argument" and "Imber Nocturnus." "Sonnet," which opens the disc and returns as a reprise, has a surprising, almost Carole King-like pop-folk vibe. The remarkable "Insomnia" finds Souza involved in a bit of semi-vocalese, capturing the night imagery in the swooping, rapid play of syllables. Admirers of this record will be interested in hearing Souza on Andrew Rathbun's True Stories, a like-minded encounter with the poems of Margaret Atwood.

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