“Assad is like a musical dryad who seems to tip-toe on the ebony and ivory keys; only she uses hand and fingers instead of toes and feet.”
Clarice Assad is quite simply a phenomenon who has streaked across the world’s musical landscape like one of those comets that appears just once in a lifetime. Fortuitously, this comet has decided to stay although she continues to streak this way and that, covering a musical topography that stretches from Brasil to the Europe of impressionist France through emotional and folksy Portugal; and best of all, Assad zigzags across the Mediterranean, from the Levant of her ancestors… all of this on her brilliant record, Home. The title is loaded with meaning for it is clear that Assad’s music is informed not only with exquisite touch, expression and sophisticated pianistic dynamics, but under the surface of her music lies drama and emotion, as well as a spirituality that enables her music to emerge from deep within a soul that seems to have roamed the world bringing back experiences and emotions that have enriched the communication of her repertoire.
Assad is like a musical dryad who seems to tip-toe on the ebony and ivory keys; only she uses hand and fingers instead of toes and feet. Assad is clearly influenced by the classical idiom, but she melds this technique with the shuffle of Brasilian samba and Maracatú, which is to say that while her pianism may be filled with soaring arpeggios, it is also affected with remarkable rhythms that mimic the binary rhythms of early and folky Brasilian ones. She is also unafraid to leap from one idiom to the other. She does not solo much, but when she does she can play with singular style and genius. Her lines may be short or long; they may be inverted, begin at the start of a melody or in the middle of one. Somehow she makes the rhyme make sense. She uses great sweeping gestures in her music that seem to leap at different elevations, or sometimes they may be soft edged like parabolas whirling in seemingly endless space. Assad is the same with her vocals. She is nymph-like; her voice is just as spritely, but here she traverses several octaves and there is not a singer alive who can scat like her. There is a taste of this delicious aspect of her music on “Ad Lib”. Feminine sensuality also emerges in her singing and she is absolutely alluring on “Dora”. Her version of Ary Barroso’s “Aquarela do Brasil,” which also pays deep tribute to Elis Regina as it closely resembles Cesar Carmago Mariano’s arrangement that Elis sang on her legendary live album, Saudades do Brasil (WEA, 1980) is also one of the defining moments on the record.
Although she is deeply traditional, Clarice Assad takes wild chances with her own music, sometimes relying on wordless vocals to mimic various percussion instruments. Here Assad displays rare mastery over tone and color, and vocal timbre. Moreover, as she morphs her voice into several instruments at once, she turns her music into a mélange of timbres. Here she is much like another Assad, Badi Assad—although the latter Assad can sing using her throat, palette and various parts of the larynx all at once. Still, Clarice Assad uses singular vocalastics which bring together emotion, drama, pantomime and operatic arias to make listening to the song’s narrative a rare and unique experience. On this record, Assad is joined by two percussionists, Keita Ogawa and Yousif Sheronick who perform with absolute brilliance in the manner in which they respond to the vocalist and pianist as well as in terms of their own technique and expression. All of this makes Home an album to die for.
Tracks: For Elis (Medley): Menino das Laranjas/Aruanda/O Morro Não Tem Vez/Upa Neguinha; 20 Anos Blues; Cajuina; Ad Lib; The Last Song; Dora; Estamos Ai; Aquarela do Brasil; Electrified!; Patuscada de Ghandi; Falsa Bahiana.
Personnel: Clarice Assad: vocals and acoustic piano; Keita Ogawa: djembe with broom, pandeiro, bomba leguero, repique, tamborim, ocean drum, agogo, mixed percussion, toys and effects (1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 10, 11); Yousif Sheronick: cajon, dumbek, bodhran, riq, djembe, caxixi, cymbal and tan tan (1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 10).
Clarice Assad – Official website: www.clariceassad.com
Label: Adventure Music
Release date: April 2012
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama