Luciana Souza's first recording of voice/guitar duets (Brazilian Duos, Suunyside 2002), was nominated for a Grammy. Her latest, Duos II, is similar in format and content; I checked my earlier review and a few glowing assessments still applywords like "wit," "intelligence," "swing," and "poignancy." The music is still intimate and immediate (it's live), the liners again unusually informative, and the guitarists equally superb (Lubambo and Pereira return, while Swami Jr. and Guilherme Monteiro are new). Guitars include classical, seven-string, and a dreamy Gibson electric on the last track.
Duos II continues Souza's guided tour of Brazilian music, as varied and fascinating as the country itself. There are sambas and choros and ballads, songs written by and for Souza, two associated with the great singer Elis Regina, and work from maestros Ivan Lins, Caetano Veloso, Tom Jobim, Paulinho da Viola, Hermeto Pascoal, and Chico Buarque. The mood goes from jubilation to anguish with everything in between, all of it smoothly paced, with no jolts or startles. And once again, you need know no Portuguese to understand what's being expressed; on her first hearing of this "Modinha," one of Jobim's most achingly beautiful melodies, a friend said, "I don't know what the words mean, but I want to cry."
One difference between the two recordingsat least to these earsis that Souza's voice sounds even better on Duos II: stronger, purer, and with a touch more vibrato that adds a lingering, sweet texture to her lines. Since the guitars also sound a bit crisper, perhaps it's the studio? Seven tracks were recorded at New York's Avatar Studios, long famous for its clarity and warmth. Souza's imaginative and tuneful scatting demonstrates her artful blending of jazz and Brazilian sensibilities. This music feels both intimate and universal; alternately danceable and thoughtful, often moving and consistently artistic, Duos II is thoroughly satisfying.
Track Listing: Sai Dessa; Nos Horizontes do Mundo; A Flor e o Espinho/Juizo Final; Muita Bobeira; Modinho, No Carnaval/Vento; Sambadulu (para Luciana Souza); Aparecida; Trocando em Miudos; Chorinho Pra Ele; Atras da Porta; Voce.
Author of "The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the myth of the mad genius," Dr. J combines her love of jazz and her fascination with psychology, focusing on where they overlap: in celebrating the individual spirit.