This is a splendid CD: serene and soulful, sunny and soothing. Now I'll get my "ess"es out of here and go into some more detail.
Two for Brazil is a long-term collaboration between reedman Greg Fishman and guitarist/vocalist Paulinho Garcia. They have about six CDs by now, two of them reviewed at AAJ. At first, their pairing of a sensuous sax with delicate Brazilian guitar and soft vocals are reminiscent of the famous Getz/Gilberto pairing in the '60s. (As it happens, Fishman has written three books of Getz transcriptions, and his sound is much like Stan's, but with less breathiness and more fluidity.)
The more you listen, however, the less like the classic duo they sound. Aside from the obvious lack of bass, piano and drums (which are not missed), Two for Brazil's rhythms are more varied, incorporating Latin influences beyond the samba and bossa nova. Moreover, Garcia's singing is more tender than Gilberto's, and Fishman plays a luscious, cool flute as well as tenor; together they can swing like mad, or move you into an Alpha state with their luxuriant ballads. And while they interpret Jobim beautifully, they also cover a wider range of material, including other Brazilian masters, past and present, jazz standards, and even—on this new release—Sting, whose haunting "Fragile" lends itself nicely to a tropical beat.
Also new here (thus making it Three for Brazil) is the presence of Grazyna Auguscik, the terrific Polish singer whose 2001 River CD made something of a splash. (Yes, I know.) She has toured with Fishman and Garcia in the Far East, where Two for Brazil is are hugely popular. Auguscik's voice is pure and true, with just a hint of smoke and sex; she's a perfect harmonic complement to Garcia (their duo scatting is wonderful), as the two of them freshen up classics like "One Note Samba," "Mas Que Nada," and "Girl from Ipanema," which I thought I'd never want to hear again in my lifetime, but which is rescued from its elevator incarnation by this trio. On the '60s hit "Summer Samba," you realize what a nice tune it really is when Fishman's sultry sax and the grown-up voices remove all the Nutrasweet.
In fact, whatever the trio does, they make it sound utterly new—or maybe they just take the music down to its heartfelt essence. A special note of appreciation for Garcia's English lyrics to "Manha Do Carnaval" (aka "Theme from Black Orpheus" and, most regrettably, "A Day in the Life of a Fool"). Garcia once told me that he didn't think people in love were fools at all; his words to this beautiful song are even more romantic without the bitterness of the Sinatra version.
Although the songs are varied in mood and tempo, with some rare Brazilian gems among the favorites, you will never have to leap to the "forward" button. You can safely settle in with Homage for nearly an hour of relaxing, tasteful, masterfully-rendered music.
Track Listing: One Note Samba, Batida Diferente, So Nice (Summer Samba), Voce, Canto de Ossanha, Girl from Ipanema, Fragile, Mas Que Nada, Danca Da Solidao, Wave, Manha do Carnaval (Black Orpheus), Recado Bossa Nova, Samba em Preludio, Agua de Beber, Blue Light Yokohama
Personnel: Grazyna Auguscik (vocal), Paulinho Garcia (acoustic guitar, vocal), Greg Fishman (tenor sax, flute)