For the Brasilian singer Guai – not nearly as known as she deserves to be – to take this repertoire – none of which she has written – and interpret it in such an eloquent, almost mystical manner, you would think that the songs have been expressly written to mirror her own life’s bitter-sweet journey. So magical is the recording, Capitania, on which she sings them. Guai’s is a voice that is fresh and youthful. She is a top tier vocalist who conveys these songs with a measure of innocence and vulnerability, often with gloriously whisper-soft dynamics and always with a luscious palette of tones and colours.
The songs on Capitania speak to Guai in a very special way; a conversation that seems to take place in the secret of her heart. She takes this as a cue to dig deep into her emotional self and sing them as if they were written just for her, to describe, in fact, a very personal journey that she has made. She phrases with unforced eloquence, pointing salient words within a liquid legato. Her diction is model, both expressive and crystal clear. With no hint of mawkishness, she excels in wondering or regretful tenderness, and that singular Brasilian emotion – saudade.
Guai sings with shy understatement and has a gift for it, setting the rhapsodic rhythm and tone for the entire album right out of the gate, on the wonderfully questing “Há Sempre Uma Estrada”. There is a welcome, dancing and edgy abandon on “Samba de Aylê”, with just the right kind of anxious colouring. Her musings on “Cá Com Deus” and “Cada Eu” are inward and highly effective. Throughout this repertoire, both bitter-sweet [even tragic] and effervescent moods are expressed without undue melodrama or sentimentality. Everywhere she brings out the depth of emotions associated with each narrative, making them her own.
This is a wonderfully-produced album and features some of the most renowned Brasilian musicians. These include bassist Arthur Maia and Nema Antunes [who co-produced this album with Guai and also arranged some songs], reeds master Marcelo Martins, who also arranged some songs, in addition to dramatising key songs with his marvellous playing. Featured guests include the great Ivan Lins on “Depois dos Temporais” co-written with Vitor Martins, Paulo de Carvalho on the majestic “Dios Corações” and Victor Zamora who solos on the final, ebullient song, “Sambar é Bom”.
The result is an album that significantly raises the artistic profile of Guai. And so it should for all the right reasons, and for taking us on an emotional ride at the highest level of interpretative and technical skill. This is a simply stunning album.
Track list – 1: Há Sempre Uma Estrada; 2: Saber de Cor; 3: Roda Quem Não Girar; 4: Som do Samba; 5: Cá Com Deus; 6: Samba de Aylê; 7: Depois dos Temporais; 8: Cada Eu; 9: Dios Corações; 10: Sambar é Bom [Hidden tracks 11: Beyond the Thunderstorms; 12: Free Vocal Improvisation]
Personnel – Guai: vocals; Marco Brito: piano and keyboards [1, 2, 6 – 11]; Luiz Otávio: keyboards [3 – 5]; Tavinho Menezes: guitar [1, 2, 6 – 11]; Luiz Brasil: guitar ; Fernando Monteiro: guitar [3 – 10]; Marcelo Martins: saxophones; Bororó Felipe: bass [1, 6]; Nema Antunes: bass [2, 3, 5, 7 – 11]; Arthur Maia: bass [3, featured on 4]; Erivelton Silva: drums [1, 2, 6 – 11]; Teo Lima: drums [3 – 5]; Marco Suzano: percussion; Vocal Kuimba: coro [6, 8]. Featuring – Ivan Lins: vocals [7, 11]; Paulo de Carvalho: vocals ; Victor Zamora: piano solo 
Released – 2021
Label – Independent
Runtime – 49:46
Rique Pantoja: Live in Los Angeles
The West Coast of the United States has had a rather long – and celebrated – association with the music of Brasil. Rique Pantoja is tapping into the Brasilliance on his Live in Los Angeles album. Moacir Santos created by far the greatest series music when he moved to Pasadena, California from Brasil in 1967. He quickly began turning heads with his spectacular take on the lineage of the [post bebop] cool, melding it with the music of his home-state, Pernambuco, in his very singular mix of other dance forms from Brasil. Other influential Brasilian musicians whose artistry collided with West Coast Cool were Cesar Camargo Mariano, Airto and Flora Purim [when she was there once upon a time] to name a few Brasilians who influenced the North American West Coast sound.
Rique Pantoja, by virtue of his extraordinary musicianship, his long-limbed compositions that seem to roll along with their exquisite, naturally danceable rhythms, can also lay claim to this august line of musicians. His music, captured on this beautifully-recorded album seems to express the sheer joy – the alegria – of being alive and in love. The composer [and pianist] seems to indulge fully his predisposition for dreamscapes as he is on stage, allowing the lyrical saxophonist [and flutist] Steve Tavaglione to stretch and take extraordinary melodic and harmonic excursions with winding, lyrical lines of his own seemingly intoxicated by the enraptured emotions ensconced in the music.
The pianist’s poetic fantasies – such as we listen to on “Da Baiana” – evoke images of voluptuous eloquence in the form of a sultry, baiana, rhythmically hip-swishing her way down along fine white sand of the Coconut Coast in Bahia. With rippling keyboard grooves, Mr Pantoja conjures vivid, lifelike imagery of surf beating around us, while Mr Tavaglione’s flute, with cascading lines from the guitar of Ricardo Silveira wail and moan and whistle melodically. Meanwhile the percussionist – Cassio Duarte – and drummer Joel Taylor – re-create the sizzle and steamy seduction of baiana’s rolling rhythm along with the deep rumble of the bass played with extraordinary facility by Jimmy Earl.
“Arpoador” is one of the finest songs on the album that had already mesmerised the audience with its tintinnabulation of the keyboards introducing the opening strains of Mr Pantoja’s magical and mystical song. Even under the Brasilliance of “1000 Watts” the audience seems to be under the hypnotic spell of the music from then on… a spell that is only broken when Rique Pantoja and this marvelous ensemble gently awaken them with the balladic – and balletic – aural dreamscape of “Pra Lili”, to close a beautiful set that offers an astonishing insight into Mr Pantoja’s artistic conception.
Tracks – 1: Arpoador; 2: Julinho; 3: 1000 Watts; 4: Da Baiana; 5: Bebop Kid; 6: Que Loucura; 7: Morena; 8: Pra Lili
Musicians – Ricardo Silveira: guitar; Steve Tavaglione: saxophones and flute; Rique Pantoja: keyboards and vocals; Jimmy Earl: bass; Joel Taylor: drums; Cassio Duarte: percussion
Released – 2022
Label – Moondo Music [MDO-2022
Runtime – 1:08:13
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