Two years ago I signed off my critique of Clarice Assad’s album Imaginarium as being something to die for. A few days ago (August 6, 2016) I received my copy of Relíquia and I have to say that I would die again. There is a simple reason for being so besotted by Clarice Assad: she is a ‘heart’ singer and if one were to draw up a list of singers in Brasil or elsewhere, few – very few – come to mind. Elis Regina, perhaps, and Rosa Passos, maybe… But here Clarice Assad differs from those legendary singers in an elemental way. She is, to my mind, alone in her ability to unfold the cultural topography of Brasil like an elegant film, before your eyes. No one else has been capable of that since Antonio Carlos Jobim and Moacir Santos. Moreover, Ms. Assad’s gifted balladry is in a class of its own. The word ‘elegiac’ only just begins to describe the beauty as is evident on ‘The Last Song’.
On Relíquia (Clarice & Sergio Assad) we are hit by the double whammy of having Ms. Assad joined by her guitarist-father, Sergio Assad, one half of the legendary classical duo with his brother Odair. The Assad family is venerated as musical royalty not only in Brasil, but in many parts of the world. Three generations have contributed in a myriad of musical ways to the library of Brasilian music. Having her father perform on this album only serves to heighten the mesmerising beauty of the album. Remarkably, however, both father and daughter meet as peers. Ms. Assad’s gorgeous song ‘Ventos’ is an unforgettable example. The song is a masterpiece of brooding, lyrical intensity. Having to rely largely on piano and guitar (with improvised, wordless vocals and vocal percussion towards the end) to communicate the idiomatic layout and dramatic gusts of the music pianist and guitarist combine marvellously to do the composer’s (Clarice Assad’s) impassioned and harmonically rich idiom justice almost as if they were creating an animated sculpting to the melodic lines adding dynamic contrasts to the piece.
Until recently we learned largely from rumour of the highly prized musical art of the Assad family. It is another thing to hear it performed so convincingly. In bringing to life the ‘alegria’ and ‘saudade’ of Brasilian life Clarice & Sergio Assad reveal just how potent and vital their unique art really is; just how seductively and imaginatively it is expressed in song. Each song is a conceived and interpreted to perfection. Their joyful flair in performance, made more memorable by the unique appeal of song after song makes this one of the most well-curated and worthwhile programmes by an Assad duo other than The Assad duo. But even then Relíquia (Clarice & Sergio Assad) must surely rank highly with the recorded repertoire by any Assad. And if writing about the music is insufficient to make it so, then listening to the record surely will.
Track List: Cidade; Artístico; Relíquia; Song For My Father; Capoeira; Angela; The Last Song; Estranho Mundo; Jorginho do Bandolim; Ventos; Sol de Clave.
Personnel: Clarice Assad: voice and piano; Sergio Assad: acoustic guitar, vocals (5); Derek Bermel: clarinet (2); Mike Marshall: mandolin (3); Keita Ogawa: percussion (1, 2 & 5); Yasushi Nakamura: acoustic bass (2 & 6); Angela Olinto: vocals (5).