The music of the South American climes got another look from me the day a friend left the bass chair for a well-known experimental rock group and then went and joined a calypso band. ?! But in the end that's just cultural narrow-mindedness on my part. Here the former Yellow Magic Orchestra swain Ryuichi Sakamoto joins the Morelenbaums, guitarist Luiz Brazil and percussionist Marcelo Costa for a very right-on romp through the saudades and sambas of Veloso, Jobim and Joao Gilberto. If you are not in the mood for this, and in this increasingly polarized cultural atmosphere you might well not, it will all seem too waving-palms and shapely-shadows-drifting-past-your-metaphoric-beach- umbrella on some perfect coastline slightly south or north of the mouth of the Amazon, somewhere you never felt like going anyway. I, however, will be resolutely trying to wear this CD out for the next few months. Yes, Gilberto's "Bim Bom" is silly and careless but it's also bright and carefree too, Luis Brazil leaping in at just the right moment. And one can't help but love the melody, yes, dare I say it, even if you aren't ready for the way it'll make you feel.
Three musical characters bring on the alchemy: Paula M's darkly alluring alto (she won't make anyone forget Astrid Gilberto, but one doubts she had that in mind anyway), Sakamoto's precisely phrased piano (he always seems to play exactly what he should; not brilliant but seemingly not his aim), and Jaques M's cello, which brings a sweet weight to the lift in Paula's voice, a sober tint to all it touches here, however joyful. Sakamoto's one original fits in nicely with the other many evergreens, among them "Insensatez," "Chora Curacao," "Samba do Aviâo" (a definite hint of "Stone Flower" there) and the closing "Fotografia,:" wherein Jaques M. carves out another magnificent sunset with his cello and Paula looks out to sea one last time before hiking back to the hotel. It can't have been a more perfect day, and Paula dusks over her shoulder, "It's time for me to go, the day is done, but there will always be a song to tell." Wisely at the end there is no resolving chord, because there is always tomorrow, there is always another sunrise. That's what I always appreciated about samba and saudade and bossa nova; the bar may close, but the possibilities always remain.
Most probably Sakamoto often gets pilloried for making music that's too facile or too easy or too whatever; I'd like to see what his usual detractors think of this, which is clearly the work of much more than a cultural tourist. I do wonder where the title of this came from (nothing about New York here, not that I'm complaining), but if you liked this group's 2002 effort CASA, this one is even better.
by Ken Egbert
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