Daniella Thompson on Brazil

Thursday, May 09, 2002

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Celia Malheiros evokes the spirits of tradition in a thoroughly modern creation. Multi-instrumentalist, composer, and singer, Celia Malheiros, has been calling the San Francisco Bay Area home for twenty years. Nonetheless, her spiritual home continues to be Brazil, whose rhythms and nuances fill her debut disc, Sempre Crescendo.

As the album title indicates, Celia is an explorer, and she selected the best guides for her musical adventure: Cartola, Tom Jobim, and Hermeto Pascoal. The latter even makes two appearances in the disc, as does a select group of top instrumentalists.

Cartola is the dedicatee of the beautiful opening samba, a hymn to love inventively arranged by Ignéz Perdigão for piano (João Rebouças), guitar & cavaco (Perdigão), flute (Marcelo Bernardes), fluegelhorn (Nelson Oliveira), trombone (Serginho de Jesus), bass (Jorge Helder), drums (Wilson das Neves), pandeiro, tamborim & cuíca (Marcos Suzano), repique de anel & surdo (Trambique). There's a tip of the hat to Ary Barroso's “Na Baixa do Sapateiro” in the opening strains.
[...] Quem do amor fugiu, hoje anda triste e vive só. [...]

[...] Se o amor é uma prisão
E você me trancou, por favor
Jogue a chave no mar.

Yemanjá, Afro-Brazilian goddess of the sea, receives her due in an upbeat samba-louvação that is a paean to all womankind. Celia's arrangement includes her own singing and spoken words, a female chorus, and instrumentation similar to the one in “Ao Mestre Cartola,” with an additional clarinet (Marcelo Bernardes), Celsinho Silva on atabaques, pandeiro & agogô, and Mestre Caboclinho on atabaques, agogô, and a wonderful candomblé-style vocal at the conclusion.

[...] As conchas ecoam o teu eterno cantar
Que ressoa por todo o universo
Onde a dança cósmica é livre e sensual
Como tu, rainha, soberana, Yemanjá.

The gentle Bossa Nova “Soul Longing” is dedicated to Tom Jobim. The title, an English rendering of saudade, finds the echo ‘so long’ in the lyrics, which use nature imagery to parallel emotional states:

[...] Like the rain that falls tonight
Changing sadness into “arte”
Dancing thoughts floating together
We rise above the stormy weather.

“Praia” introduces an indolent Caribbean beat, carried by the vocal chorus, acoustic and electric guitars (Celia and José Neto, respectively), clarinet (Marcelo Bernardes), bass (Kai Eckhardt), and Suzano's percussion, which utilizes pandeiro, cajón, castalhas, and seashells.

Hermeto Pascoal joins Celia for “Sempre Crescendo com o Mestre” in a remarkable vocalese/piano duet that is pure musical exploration, wafting the listener from the lyrical to the atonal and back in seven and a half minutes.

The master returns for an encore in the frevo “Fremeto,” arranged by his disciple Jovino Santos Neto. Hermeto plays melodica, accompanied by his longtime group members Itiberê Zwarg (bass) and Márcio Bahia (drums & percussion), who are bolstered by piano (Marcos Nimrichter), trumpet (Nelson Oliveira), trombone (Serginho de Jesus), alto sax (Macaé), and tenor sax (Marcelo Bernardes).

Two other noteworthy instrumentals are “Amazon” and “Woman Being.” The former is a rich tropical tapestry woven by Jovino and embroidered by Celia's vocalese and Tony Corman's flute. The latter is a showcase for Celia's array of talents, as she plays berimbau, harmonium, cavaco, pandeiro, moringa, baya, triangle, and ganzá; vocalizes in Indian style; and waves us off with a well-deserved chuckle.


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