It’s hard to argue with Tony Bennett when he describes Leny Andrade as the “Ella Fitzgerald of Brasil”. Anyone who has heard Ms. Andrade live or on record will agree. Her sublime artistry is born of integrity and intensity. She indulges in a harmonically rich turn of phrase, clothed in beautifully balanced and largely polyphonic textures that still feel like gossamer – and when she turns up the heat – as rich and sensuous as raw silk. Described as having a dynamic voice capable of stunning leaps from an upper register, to dramatic plunges into gravity-defying depths, Leny Andrade is no ordinary mezzo-soprano. Her singing comes on a generous scale with a wide range and bags of personality – easily enough to encompass every aspect of the Brasilian cultural ethos.
Ms. Andrade is accompanied by an equally dynamic instrumental personality: Roni Ben-Hur. The guitarist is an inspired choice for this date. Mr. Ben-Hur concentrates on the sonorities of his instrument treating the colours it makes as independent of Leny Andrade’s uncommonly lush notes, doing justice to it (his guitar) in his warm old-school playing as he manages to pull multiple melodious lines which he weaves deftly into his seemingly diaphanous harmonic canvas. His mannerisms are cultured. They spark reflective utterances as a framing stimulus towards the rhapsodic melismas that dance their way out from the vocalastics of Ms. Andrade. It is hard to imagine another pairing for this repertoire – or any other for that matter.
One of the challenges that even Brasilian artists face when attempting a programme is steering clear of the tried and tested – and often – all-too-familiar, even tried Brasilian standards. This record, Alegria de Viver pulls music out of surprising, under-represented catalogues. Of course, you cannot avoid the music of Baden Powell, Vinicius De Moraes, Pixinguinha, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Dori Caymmi, certainly not if you are intent on making a good record. Then turning it into something great is a matter of good taste and inhabiting the songs from the inside out. Few vocalists from Brasil can do this with as much facility as Leny Andrade.
Leny Andrade does great things with the lyric and the music throughout the repertoire. If anything is to be singled out for special mention – an unfair task in this instance – I may as well recommend “Carinhoso” and “O Que é Amar” the latter is a rarely performed piece by one of Brasil’s most gifted sons – Johnny Alf. It does bear mention that the album is breathtaking from end to end, though. Together, Leny Andrade and Roni Ben-Hur lay it all out for us in one superbly rich and eloquent verse after the other, representing art at its most sublime. The profound romanticism of Brasilian storylines is magically matched by the high drama of the delivers of lyrics. Both artists allow the music to evolve with a wonderful feeling of spaciousness in which the intense musical textures of these pieces are beautifully revealed.
Track List: Samba Iluminado ; Balançao Zona Sul; Dindi; Refem da Solidão; Estrada Branca; Alegria de Viver; Cantador; É Preciso Perdoar; Carinhoso; Passa por Mim; Rugas; Ana Luisa; Una Mañana; O Que é Amar.
Personnel: Leny Andrade: vocals; Roni Ben-Hur: guitar.
About Leny Andrade
Leny Andrade has performed with Paquito D’Rivera, Luiz Eça, Dick Farney, João Donato, Eumir Deodato, Pery Ribeiro, and Francis Hime. Leny Andrade’s eclectic style is a synthesis of samba and jazz. Andrade, considered by many the greatest singer of Brazilian jazz, has never had great commercial success, but is a well-respected jazz artist. She has been described by Tony Bennett as the “Ella Fitzgerald of Brazil”. Likewise in Europe where she toured, she was the acclaimed Brazilians’ First Lady of Jazz, building a huge fan base in the Netherlands and Italy. This resulted in the recording of an American Songbook album Embraceable You in July 1991 at Volendam, in the Netherlands. Read more…
About Roni Ben-Hur
Jazz guitarist Roni Ben-Hur has earned a sterling reputation as a musician and educator, renowned for his golden tone, improvisational brilliance, compositional lyricism and ability to charm peers, students and listeners alike. Eminent jazz critic Gary Giddins wrote in the Village Voice: “A limber and inventive guitarist, Ben-Hur keeps the modernist flame alive and pure, with a low flame burning in every note… [He’s] a guitarist who knows the changes and his own mind.” Ben-Hur – born in Israel in 1962 but a longtime American citizen, now based in New Jersey – has released nine albums as leader or co-leader, with Time Out New York calling him “a formidable and consummately lyrical guitarist. Read more…