When Luciana Souza sings, it is possible to experience everything from the elemental ache of the ache of a proverbial knife plunged into the heart to the soaring ecstasy of a soul soaring free and every feeling and emotion in between.
Luciana Souza’s voice is that pure and in touch with the very neurons that send tender messages to the heart and the soul. Few vocalists—only the Colombian-born sensation included Lucia Pulido does more—can create the duende of deep song so effectively as Ms. Souza. In fact among Brazilian vocalists singing today, she may be closer to the heart of Elis Regina than anyone else. To do this, of course, the vocalist must inhabit the usually nuanced emotions of a song as if she were wearing it like a tender skin wrapped tightly around hers; and then she must feel the emotions as if they were a myriad ganglia reaching into her heart. All of this Ms. Souza seems to do with a certain majesty and then communicate it all with the power of tenderness that only a woman of substance as she can.
Ms. Souza seems to shine in a very special way when setting her voice in counterpoint with a guitar played by a Brazilian master. On Duos III she does so with three of the greatest exponents of that instrument playing today: Toninho Horta, Marco Pereira and—for some reason, someone she shares a special bond with—Romero Lubambo. While there is something of an equal partnership throughout this recording, Ms. Souza inhabits a special place on this project. The vocalist does spectacular things on this record that is set to win a clutch of awards. She sings with characteristic sliding glissandos that seem to crawl into the essences of the lyrics. Her lines are long and carve the air in wide arcs and leaping parabolas. She is not one to make flashy leaps and other showboating movements. Rather she follows the lyric like an imagist poet, stripping it if all its florid sparkle and getting into the very broken heart of it. She is monumental when she holds a note for what seems to be an eternity, every now and then and her voice has a spectral dimension; so much so that Ms. Souza inhabits both the real world as well as another, ethereal one at the same time. No one, except she seems to know where the song comes from. Singing with this secret in her heart, Ms. Souza makes the songs so much more memorable than even some of their original versions.
The guitarists here play with extraordinary empathy, almost receding into the background at times as is they were interlopers shadowing the principle character in a noir film. Of course not all that Ms. Souza sings is sad; quite the contrary and her joyful playfulness on “Tim Tim Por Tim Tim” and “Doralice” are classic examples. But to return to the guitarists: The mighty Toninho Horta is one of the finest songwriters coming out of Brazil and can play a guitar with such virtuosity that he has even left the great Pat Metheny breathless every time he has played and Metheny listens. Horta plays with sparkling ingenuity, picking his way through intricate passages filled with sadness and joy. His animated style is as close to a horn as a guitar can get. Mr. Horta can navigate with legato and pizzicato as if he created the expressions themselves. Marco Pereira coaxes his music out of a guitar as if it were a keyboard. His style is almost classical, following in the footsteps of Laurindo Almeida and today’s maestro, Carlos Barbosa-Lima. And of Romero Lubambo what more can be said? Mr. Lubambo plays his instrument as if he were singing with Ms. Souza. No one can say so much by saying so little. Yet there is staggering virtuosity in Mr. Lubambo’s playing—and he is as masterful as the others playing on this outstanding date.
Of course, the spotlight belongs to Ms. Souza who is simply unforgettable on everything she does here. This album, together with her other 2012 release–The Book of Chet (Sunnyside) must raise the reputation of Luciana Souza to one that is quite beyond the realms of interstellar space.
Tracks: Tim Tim Por Tim Tim; Doralice; Chora Coração; Pedra da Lua; Dona Lu; Mágoas de Coboclo; Eu Vim da Bahia; As Rosas Não Falam; Medley: Lamento Sertanejo (Forró do Dominginhos) & Maçã do Rosto; Inútil Paisagem; Dindi; Beijo Partido.
Personnel: Luciana Souza: voice; Toninho Horta: Fukuda, Flamenco guitar (1, 4, 10, 12) and voice (4); Romero Lubambo: Casa Gonzalez guitar, Dieter Hopf Grand Concerto guitar (2, 8, 9, 11); Marco Pereira: Seven String Lineu Bravo guitar (3, 5, 6, 7).
Luciana Souza on the Web: www.lucianasouza.com
Label: Sunnyside Records
Release date: August 2012
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama