Ithamara Koorax became a major name in Brazilian pop-jazz in the 1990s. The singer comes from a family of Polish Jews, who fled Europe during World War II. Born in Rio in 1965, Koorax was only a child when she began studying classical music. But when she reached adulthood, Koorax realized that Brazilian pop-jazz would be her focus -- the vocalists she admired ranged from Flora Purim and Elis Regina to Shirley Horn, Ella Fitzgerald, and Carmen McRae. At 18, Koorax found that singing background vocals for various artists and providing jingles for Brazilian ad agencies could be very lucrative -- and she enjoyed a great deal of exposure when her recording, "Iluminada," was used in a popular Brazilian soap opera in the early 1990s. Koorax's first album, Luiza: Ithamara Koorax Live was released in Japan on JVC in 1994, and several releases on the Japanese Paddle Wheel label followed, including Rio Vermelho in 1995, Ithamara Koorax Sings the Luiz Bonfá Songbook in 1996, Wave 2000 in 1997, and Bossa Nova Meets Drum'n'Bass in 1998. Koorax's first U.S. release came in 2000, when Fantasy licensed Serenade in Blue (recorded in 1997 and 1998) from the Jazz Station label.