When Elis Regina died, most Brasilians thought that the vacuum created by her loss could not be filled. Then along came Rosa Passos… and Anna Estrada. The two vocalists do not jostle for position in the vacant slot that Regina left behind. However, both fill it individually with the extraordinary breath and scope of their talent. Passos stays within the Brasilian ethos more often than not. If this record, Obsesión, is anything to go by then the Bay Area singer Anna Estrada appears to be more adventurous–embracing the whole Latin American and Afro-Brasilian ethos. However, this is where all further comparisons should end.
Estrada is a unique voice with a dynamic range that stretches two and a half octaves. She is wonderfully expressive and more likely to inhabit the characters in her songs than any Brasilian artist does today. On Obsesion, she has chosen what may be argued to be a rather narrow spectrum of song–a look at “love” in several forms. Actually, it is the other way around. The record proffers a staggering array of moods, sensibilities and tableaus, and provokes such intense feelings that it is quite breathtaking an experience.
It is remarkable that Estrada has sung in English, Spanish and Portuguese. By itself, this may be no great achievement, but to be mindful of each idiocyncracy of every rhythmic form and idiom from such disparate musical cultures represents quite a feat. For instance, in Spanish she turns the old favorite, “La Mentira,” (The Lie) into a ravishing new standard. “Nature Boy,” sung in English, is imbued with a wondrous spirit that few–and only those with the soul of deep song–can bring forth from within the gut.
“Llorona” is one of the “blackest” and most shockingly brilliant recreations of the Medea myth. Only a singer who can cast the spell of “duende” from the darkest part of the soul could have pulled this song off. “Soledad” captures the wistful nature of solitude in much the same away as Al Hibbler once did with the Duke Ellington Orchestra on “Solitude.” The other English song on the record, Burt Bacharah and Hal David’s “Always Something There To Remind Me” harks back to some of the most beautiful son forms in Cuba.
The Brasilian fare is remarkable for the range of moods conveyed by the songs. Vinicius de Moraes’ “Carta Ao Tom 74” probably stays truest to the manner in which the song was written, but immediately recalls the heyday of Brasilian vocalastics under Elis Regina. The chorinho, “Upa Neguinho” is refreshing and brings “the little black girl” to life yet again. “Adeus America” is an old 50s boogie-woogie written at the height of Brasil’s fascination with American song. Anna Estrada fills the room with her presence when she sways into this song and making it echo with distinct sense of saudade.
Two other memorable events on the record are Michelle Goerlitz’s percussion throughout and the magnificent harmonica of Damien Masterson, especially the notes that conjour such deep dispair in the lower register of that instrument, on “Llorona.”
Tracks: La Mentira; Nature Boy; Carta Ao Tom 74; Obsesión; Llorona; Upa Neguinho; Flor Sin Retoño; Always Something There To Remind Me; Soledad (Norah); Adeus America.
Personnel: Anna Estrada: vocals; Ray Scott: guitar (1-3, 6, 8-10); Alex Baum: bass (1-8, 10); Jonathan Alford: piano (1-7, 10); Phil Thompson: drums (1, 2, 4, 6. 8. 10); Michelle Goerlitz: percussion (1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10); Raul Ramirez: dumbek, cajon (2, 5, 7); Damien Masterson: harmonica (3, 5); Charlie McCarthy: saxophone (1, 4); Tommy Kesecher: vibraphone (8); Chuck Bennett: trombone (1); Wayne Wallace: trombone (4).[audio:http://www.latinjazznet.com/audio/reviews/Anna-Estrada-Carta-ao-Tom-74.mp3|titles=Track 2 – Carta Ao Tom 74 by Anna Estrada – From the CD “Obsesión”]
Anna Estrada on the web: www.annaestrada.com
Review written by: Raul da Gama