It is rare – very rare indeed – that a foreigner singing Brasilian music in the native Portuguese language could take your breath away as some of the top tier Brasilian vocalists performing these very same songs. There are several reasons why Mafalda Minnozzi does this to you, and right from the first bars that she sings. The first is that she is a vocalist of the first order – and not simply a vocalist, but one who is capable of stunning musicianship, something that she exhibits so naturally and without guile that I suspect that even she is seemingly unaware of what she really is capable of doing; the heights to which she can push herself. But, of course, this is exactly what she does on Sensorial – Portraits in Bossa & Jazz as she channels the music of great Brasilian composers as if they speak to her in the secret of her heart.
Among the most important aspects of her vocalastics that you [if you are Brasilian] cannot but admire is the fact that she “goes native” in her enunciation and diction [even Portuguese singers from Portugal sometimes struggle to pronounce words in the manner in which a native Brasilian does]. At the risk of sounding a tad technical for a moment: there is a preponderance the “sh” sound in the way many words in Portuguese that are enunciated with peculiarity, where the “sh sound’/?/ is unvoiced [the vocal cords do not vibrate during its production], and is the counterpart to the voiced “zh sound” /?/. Miss Mennozzi is as adept as a native speaker in this regard [despite her background in Italian]. Moreover “t” is often also pronounced with the “zh sound” – something only native Brasilians can ever do naturally. Here too Miss Minnozzi makes short work of this seeming not to “sing phonetically” but reading the exact pronunciation extremely naturally [her two decades has indeed paid her handsomely in this regard].
As a vocalist, her technique is sublime; she sings not simply with facility, but with faculties, employing anatomical jurisdictions that only a handful of the top singers [in any style] do; and that includes nasal and chest voices – with potent “diaphragmatic breathing’. Her vocal range is incredibly rare and she is capable of flying into the nether regions of falsetto before swooping down to the basement of contralto. With all of these technical abilities at her command it is also incredible that she knows exactly when to employ a range of these. Along with all of this is her ability to phrase with distinction while employing her emotions to dig into the meaning of each phrase, bringing a special whispering beauty to soft dynamics – as she does in the incomparable Tom Jobim’s “Once I Loved”. Meanwhile the display of her astounding range is evident in “Morro Dios Irmãos” by the great master Chico Buarque.
The ensemble clearly also has a whale of a time performing with her, as she mines the seduction these superb arrangements to the maximum. The performances are superbly idiomatic and clearly each musician is deeply invested in Miss Minnozzi’s artistry and in the music as well. The composition of the group itself is inspired and it is also this fact in turn, which drives the sparkling energy of the music. If there was any pressure to perform at the top of her game Miss Minnozzi is showing none of this as she sings, vocalises wordlessly and makes her way through songs using “vocal percussion” to duel with the musicians and to have you at the edge of your seat – on “Chega de Saudade”, for example.
Anyone who thinks that this hyperbole is itself unwarranted and over-the-top has only to listen to Miss Minnozzi interpret the aforementioned song and then follow that up with a wordless and breathy, version of Djavan’s “Jogral” to listen to just how Miss Minnozzi can perform the most incredible vocalastics… And to follow that up with the most evocative version of Jobim’s “Dindi” from an inspired, exceptionally bluesy arrangement certainly makes all of this music to absolutely die for.
Track list – 1: A Felicidade [interlude – Consolação]; 2: Vivo Sonhando; 3: Morro Dios Irmãos; 4: É Presico Perdoar [intro – Lonnie’s Lament]; 5: Desafinado; 6: Mocidade; 7: Samba Da Benção; 8: Once I loved; 9: Triste; 10: Chega de Saudade; 11: Jogral; 12: Un’Altro Addio; 13: Dindi
Personnel – Mafalda Minnozzi: vocals; Paul Ricci: guitars, baritone guitar [3, 6] and resonator guitar ; Art Hirahara: piano; Essiet Okon Essiet: contrabass [2 – 4, 8, 12, 13]; Harvie S: contrabass [1, 5, 6, 9 – 11]; Victor Jones: drums [2 – 4, 8]; Rogerio Boccato: percussion [1 – 6, 8 – 13]; Will Calhoun: udu drum and shaker 
Released – 2020
Label – Mama Prod. Art. [MPI 2318]
Runtime – 56:59