Tania Maria’s voice on Tempo, as it is on any of her records, is as distinctive as Elis’ or that of Gal Costa’s, or indeed when the entire diaspora of Portuguese music is considered, as individual as that of Amalia Rodrigues.
When she sings it is as if the gods were pouring out gleaming bronzed liqueur from an expensive decanter into a glass of extremely delicate crystal. There are few artists with vocal chords that can sound so heavy and deep and sensuous at the same time as sounding delicate and fluttery. Perhaps another way of hearing the vocalist is listening to her voice as accompanying the piano she plays, rather than the other way around, and as she does the dynamic of her voice changes as she goes from the ache of the lower register to the harmonic sensuousness of the middle register and then—as she executes a mighty glissando—Maria slips into the crystalline purity of the upper register. In reality of course, Tania Maria’s voice does not have that range, but for the sheer ability to swing from the deep throb of saudade to the ecstatic highs of sheer alegria, few can compare with Tania Maria.
And then there is the piano that she plays with sublime technique doing all of the things she does with her voice, with the keyboard as well. The long and exquisite solo she plays on “Senso único” is an outstanding example of her pianism. On “Dear Dee Vee” the great vocalist preforms some of her singular magic as she scats through a portion of the early verses and also soars into the musical stratosphere with vocalastics as blithe and airy as a soprano might. “Bonzes e cristais” which might as well be her anthem, her voice appears to wrap itself around the figurines she may as well be describing molten in its brazen bronze-ness and delicate and glacial in its crystal-ness. This is a classic example of how Tania Maria might go from deep to soaring high. On “Tempo” her pianistic skills are outstanding and it is here and only here that she appears to be paying homage to Bud Powell; who is surely someone who she has listened to carefully. On the early part of the record, especially on “Estate” her voice is showcased ahead of her piano, but she gradually lets her hair down letting her wonderful virtuosity shine.
Of course this is just as much bassist Eddie Gomez’s album almost as much as it is Tania Maria’s. In some respects the vocal-bass duo is reminiscent of the great duets that Sheila Jordan had with bassists from Charles Mingus, to Harvie S and, of her most celebrated ones with Cameron Brown; the only difference here is that Jordan does not play piano, while Tania Maria does. Gomez is striking on this record. His playing while accompanying a vocalising Tania Maria is spectacular. Gomez shows himself to be a master of harmonic colour. His palette is large and varied and as he plays he dips his finger or his bow into it to bring a myriad of colours to the songs that Tania Maria sings. The three way counterpoint on “Sentado à beira do caminho” is exhilarating as Tania Maria and Gomez skip and gambol their way through the song. Maria is quite playful here as is Gomez, despite a certain sense of gravitas in the bridge of the song, but then returning to almost scatting his way through the song with Maria and her voice.
This is a record of two musicians who seem to inhabit each other’s skin with such ease that at times they seem to be one and the same. Gomez’s own melodic accompaniment is made more exquisite as he sings quietly while playing both solo and escorting passages. On Jobim’s “A chuva caiu” both musicians are on top of their game, especially Gomez, who dances delightfully in and around the root notes of the harmonic ecstasy that goes along with the relative ache of Tania Maria’s voice. The record is one of immense achievement not only in the individual performances, but it also sets a new standard to reach for in the realm of duo performances.
Tracks: Estate; Sentado à beira do caminho; A chuva caiu; Yeah man; Senso único; Dear Dee Vee; Bronzes e cristais; Tempo.
Personnel: Tania Maria: piano, vocals; Eddie Gomez: bass.
Tania Maria – Official Website: www.taniamaria.org
Eddie Gómez – Official Website: http://eddiegomez.com
Label: Naïve Records
Release date: January 2012
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama