Cristina Braga – voice and harp
Ricardo Medeiros – doublebass,
musical direction
and artistic production
Jessé Sadoc – trumpet and flügelhorn
Joca Moraes – alfaia drums and tambourin
Arthur Dutra – vibraphone

Watch the Official Video on YouTube
“Love Parfait”

Enja Records is proud to announce the release of Cristina Braga’s Samba, Jazz and Love, the highly acclaimed Brazilian harpist/vocalist’s second album for the label.

In its ideal form, an album is like an extended suite, where each song is artfully placed to flow into the next, creating a seamless musical statement.  Samba, Jazz and Love perfectly fits that description. With her hauntingly compelling voice and wonderful harp playing at the heart of the music, Ms. Braga has surrounded herself with a brilliant ensemble of musicians, whose styles and sounds provide the ideal palette for this superb offering.  Jessé Sadoc on trumpet and flügelhorn, vibraphonist Arthur Dutra and Joca Moraes on Alfaia Drums and Tambourin all contribute powerfully under the musical direction and artistic production of Ms. Braga’s collaborator, doublebassist Ricardo Medeiros.

The instrumentation is perfectly suited to the selection of compositions, featuring eleven beautiful works by some of Brazil’s most renowned and profoundly influential composers. The vibraphone and harp match together so well that they often sound like a single instrument.  Likewise Ms. Braga’s voice and Sadoc’s highly lyrical trumpet and flugelhorn are similarly melded. Moraes’ percussion is so subtly dynamic that it is fully integrated, never outside of the purest rhythmic context while Medeiros’ bass provides the integral nucleus of the group dynamic.

The interplay is often mind-boggling, creating an aura akin to a chamber ensemble where the sonorities are balanced seamlessly into a singular texture of multiple layers. While all of the music is lovingly shaped to provide the setting for Ms Braga’s exquisite voice, it never feels like background support.  Instead it embraces the voice like a master jeweler’s setting for a brilliantly cut gemstone.

Clearly, a great deal of thought and care went into the selection of songs.  Classic Brazilian composers Caetano Veloso, Moacir Santos, Chico Buarque, Roberto Menescal and Candeia are all represented; along with four pieces by the immortal Tom Jobim.

All of the vocals are in Portuguese, with the exception of Alberto Rosenblit and Paulinho Tapajós’ lovely and subtly syncopated Rio Paraiso, which has been adapted into English by Medeiros and Ms. Braga.  Medeiros (with Bernardo Vilhena) contributes Love Parfait, the delicately winsome song that opens the album, with Cristina’s vocal reminiscent of the peerless Betty Carter’s darkly luminous ballad style.

A similar feeling opens Bossa Nova pioneer Roberto Menescal’s best known work O Barquinho (with lyrics by Ronaldo Bôscoli), before locking in its Bossa groove, and is highlighted by an outstanding vibes/harp exchange of solos that play out in an almost telepathic fashion.  Another harp/vibraphone duet/solo is the climax of one of the two instrumentals on the album, Tom Jobim’s Chovendo Na Roseira, a richly grooved swinger, stoked by Cristina’s vibrant harp, often tossing off “power chords” that help build the fiery context to an incandescent glare.

The other instrumental, Triste de Quem, by the late, great Moacir Santos is an evocative piece with gently suspended rhythms marked by lovely flügelhorn and Medeiros’ only bass solo – highly lyrical, with deliciously bent notes and tantalizing harmonics – all surrounded by the pillow effect of Cristina’s web-like chords.

Her amazing harp comping is also prominent on Jobim’s complex, multi-layered and richly textured Canta Mais (with lyrics by the seminal lyricist, poet and playwright Vinicius de Moraes), supporting, propelling and climaxing with a soft zephyr of clusters surrounding her voice like a rich swirling mist. Powerfully cascading harp propels Samba E Amor (by noted Renaissance man Chico Buarque) into a controlled but energetic delightful frenzy.

Jobim’s classic Desafinado is treated with proper respect, sandwiched between a deeply grooved opening and closing segment.  Só Danço Samba (also by Jobim and de Moraes) is a jaunty, bouncy romp, with crisply percussive vocal, straight-ahead jazz solos by everybody and a very Cubano-ish muted trumpet teasing the vocal going out.

Candeia, renowned as a primary exponent of the Afro-Brazilian style, is represented here with Preciso Me Encontrar, with a captivating melody, daringly suspended rhythms and powerful solos by Sadoc and Ms. Braga that are facile and exciting, but never lose their lyrical beauty. The album closes most appropriately with Caetano Veloso’s Desde de Que O Samba É Samba, a playful, joyous gem that wraps up this superb album like a delightful aperitif.

As much as this remarkable CD is a collective effort, there is no question that the heart and soul is the exceptional talent of Cristina Braga. Her softly resonant, sinuous and beautifully melancholic voice caresses every lyric with love and palpable depth, while her astonishing harp playing sings, swirls, punctuates, explodes, grooves and swings according to whatever is most organically demanded by the moment. The result is a masterpiece of filigree beauty, emotional depth and stunning musicality.

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New World ‘n Jazz

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