Yuko Ito is a patently Japanese name, but when she opens her mouth to sing in Portuguese, you could almost wager that she was not. Her pronunciation, while not quite spot on, is remarkably close to it. This seems to have no bearing on her musical deportment, however. Ms. Ito’s phrasing is magnificent and so is her intonation. She sings in a joyous declarative that is quite unique to Brasilian vocalastics. This puts her music slap bang in the middle of an urban setting not unlike a club de sol in Rio de Janeiro. She is aided and abetted no doubt by the all-round musical ingenuity of Cidinho Teixeira, to whom a large share of the praise is due, but still, Ms. Ito deserves a very healthy dose of respect.
Brasilian music like all music melded on an African anvil poured over by the romance of Latin cultures is a music of deeply felt emotions. Nowhere in the world, for instance is there such a thing as chorinho, a form of song that is not so much sung as it is “cried”. Nana Caymmi’s “Nem Uma Lagrima” is a classic example of this and there is plenty more from where that came. Consider Elis Regina’s profoundly beautiful version of Ary Barroso’s “Aquarela do Brasil”. Now, while you do not have to be an Elis or a Nana Caymmi to break through the Brasilian musical ethos, certain standards must be adhered to. And Yuko Ito may be proud to represent these standards.
The trend towards casting Brasilian music with lighter voices, often more seasoned in chronologically earlier repertoire, takes a fruitful turn as Sheila Jordan-trained Yuko Ito steps into music associated with Elis, Maria Bethânia, Milton Nascimento and Djavan. Next to them Yuko Ito’s personality and strength of conception stand up to any comparison as long as listeners can shift some fundamental ideas about the sound and nature of these characters. Ms. Ito has, at her command all of the necessary resources that make for a vivid account of the cultural topography of a place that the world has come to love and enjoy and pursue like there is no tomorrow.
Far from a foreigner wounded by her apparent lack of proximity to the source of all matters, Ms. Ito’s characterisations of these works have a more fragile humanity, with pockets of psychological detail missed by others, often conveyed with a confiding intimacy that might only be possible in the recording studio. The studio setting also protects her from being covered by the folksiness of the ensemble – comprised of Brasilians who seem no doubt impressed by her demeanour. This is particularly evident in Milton Nascimento and Fernando Brant’s indelible classic “Travessia”. In moments when her voice starts to show mileage, the command used for “Eu Só Quero Um Xodó” seems quite close to perfection.
Yuko Ito’s treatment of Brasilian and Japanese writing makes the piece sound downright memorable. Another drawing card is Dori Caymmi and Nelson Motta’s “O Cantador”, another enduring part of Brasiliana, from which the disc takes its title, with Ms. Ito making the somewhat discursive Caymmi verses more cogent, with special sensitivity to the nocturnal imagery. Flaws and all this is a fine addition to the Brasilian discography.
Track List: Mais Que Nada; Samba de Verão; Travessia; Sina; Batucada Surgiu; Guerrilla (Eu Nao Sou Nimguem); Eu Só Quero Um Xodó; O Cantador; Takeda No Komori-uta; Serrado.
Personnel: Yuko Ito: Vocal; Cidinho Teixeira: piano and accordion; Gustavo Amarante: bass (1,4,5,8,10); Mauricio Zottarelli: drums and percussion #1,4,5,8,10; Oriente López: flute (2,3,4,7,8,9); Leco Reis: bass (2,3,6,7,9); Adriano Santos: drums (2,3,6,7,9); Edgar DeAlmeida: guitar (2,6); Aaron Heick: alto saxophone (1,5,10).
About Yuko Ito
A native of Tokyo, Japan, Yuko Ito has been performing publicly in a wide range of styles: pop, rock, R&B, jazz funk, gospel, free jazz and various forms of Brazilian music since high school. Her early musical career began when she founded the girl’s rock band, Sissy Boy, which produced two CDs: Marcy’s Factory, with Vaan Media, and Kick Off Boy’s, with Crown Records Japan. Even with her early success in Japan, Yuko’s musical vision was broad, which led her to make a move to New York City in 1994, where she could explore her musical ideas and vision. . Read more…