There are several multi-lingual artists—some are even musicians. However, the fact that several languages may be spoken, even sung, it does not mean that they get to the soul of the musical culture whose garb they put on for the occasion. But Miguel de León is one of those artists who wears a cultural garb just like a second skin. The Mexican-American and Spanish singer appears to have touched the heart and soul of the Brazilian experience with authentic saudades and alegria, both characteristics that are as magical, mysterious and intense as the duende that Federico Garcia Lorca ascribed to authentic flamenco music and poetry.
To begin with, De León has a voice that is near perfect for the music he pays homage to here on Postcards from Rio (Re-released in 2009). His attack is angular and suggests a sub-sonic comfort zone. In tone he is a dead ringer for the finest Brazilian singers—including Jobim, although he is a singular stylist, whose approach is one that inhabits the elemental sadness that embodies saudades, with its plaintive straining as he pushes his soft tenor to the depths of emotion. Thus he is able to negotiate a myriad of quarter notes—with their subtle shades and textures that bring characters and situations to life in song.
On Postcards from Rio his objective, it appears, was narrow: To make a loving reminder of a memorable time spent in Brazil. He enlists the music of contemporary Brazilian composers—Dorival Caymmi, Tom Jobim, Toquinho, Vinicius de Moraes, Chico Buarque, Roberto Menescal and others. This is a Carioca record, a romantic piece of urbane music that sways and flutters and shuffles in the heat and dust of Rio. But it is more than merely a tribute to Rio and the effect it has on the singer. His connection with the city appears to be almost umbilical and it is easy to identify with the Brazil of which he sings too.
Much of this has to do with the repertoire. “Samba de Orly,” “Bom dia Rio,” “Corcovado” and “Garota de Ipanema” come alive in the manner that they did when they were first sung by their respective creators. This time they are also fresh and inviting. The musicians who accompany De León on his journey also have much to do with the musical experience. David Feldman’s arrangements are superb, as is Daniel Santiago’s guitar—especially on the sharp, short solo on “Copacabana,” Sidinho’s percussion and the flutes of Leo Gandelman as well as the almost human speech-like trombone of Serginho Trombone. “Cidade Maravilhosa” is a fine way to bring the album to a close—with a song that recalls another fine duet—that between Tom and Elis on “Aguas de Março.”
Postcards from Rio may not leap out in the manner that many some of the more ambitious albums do, but then it is not that kind of record. The artist’s intention is to provide a tender portrait of a city that has got under his skin and this he does with skill and beauty.
Tracks: 1. Samba de Orly; 2. Bom Dia Rio; 3. Corcovado; 4. Ela é Carioca; 5. Garota de Ipanema; 6. Sábado em Copacabana; 7. Only a Dream in Rio; 8. Rio de Janeiro Blue; Rio; 9. Samba do Avião; 10. Copacabana; 11. Cidade Maravilhosa.
Personnel: Miguel de León: vocals; Alberto Continentino: bass; David Feldman: piano, arrangements; Erivelton Silva: drums; Daniel Santiago: guitar; Sidinho Moreira: percussion; Serginho Trombone: trombone; Leo Gandelman: saxophones, flutes.
Miguel De Leon on the web: www.migueldeleon.net
Review written by: Raul da Gama