Singer Kenia, who grew up in Rio de Janeiro and moved to the US in 1980, now living in Pittsburgh, continues her streak of recordings that combine contemporary Brazilian material with US standards and top-notch production.
The title track opens the set, with lyrics by the great Lorraine Feather. Thick keyboards from Mark Soskin and Romero Lubambo‘s guitar surround this light samba with the necessary ingredients to make this an easy-on-the-ear entry into this 12-track album. It’s an infectious piece, as is the funky arrangement of Gershwin’s “Summertime” which proves that there are more and more ways of turning this old staple into a hot number. Paul Socolow on bass plays a major part in this, as does Mark Soskin with a svelte solo.
Tempo is reduced for the ballad “Que Amor É Esse”, with lyrics by the leader and music by Antonio Adolfo. A nice change of pace. The wordless “Melancia” could have been culled from George Duke’s “Brazilian Love Affair” album. The airy track features a jazzy solo by guitarist Sandro Albert and subtle percussion work by Lucas Ashby.
The quality here is lifted even more with a song by semi-god Ivan Lins. “Closer To Me” has lyrics by Kenia and graceful playing by Hendrik Meurkens on harmonica. A wonderful, straight bossa nova with just about the right amount of saudade. Kenia’s sympathetic and deep voice and her phrasing are just perfect here. The uptempo samba of “Pra Que Que Inventaram A Bahia?” floats along touchingly and pretty polished. A bit too polished for my aesthetics is “Coming Home”, a fair enough midtempo cut that really doesn’t click.
I’m much more into pieces like the classic “Pretty World”, with lyrics by Alan & Marilyn Bergman. Its definitive version appears on the 1969 Sergio Mendes LP “Crystal Illusions”. Its origins come from “Sá Marina” by Wilson Simonal. Kenia comes up here with a touching and soothing finale for the piece. “For Donato” was written by Romero Lubambo, dedicated to Joao Donato. A relaxing, commanding dedication. “Illusion” is the second Ivan Lins tune here, written by him especially for this collection and including all the Ivan trademarks: intricate melody, jazzy interpolation, seductive melancholy, and sheer class.
Kenia’s fine album concludes with “Zureta”, a forró-induced piece by Luis Simas, and a surprisingly catchy and sweet cover of The Beatles‘ “Nowhere Man”; with its guitar and light percussion accompaniment, it is a fitting closer to this solid, respectable album.