Sometimes where you're headed is more important than where you came from. Such is the case with vocalist Marta Topferova, who delivers a ten-pack of soft, Latin-inflected pieces on Sueño Verde.
Born and raised in Czechoslovakia, Topferova emigrated to Seattle as a youth and has subsequently relocated to New York. For this outing she gathers nine musicians, including her chief collaborator, co-composer, co-arranger, and co-producer: Enrique Lopez.
Whatever her past history, Topferova has clearly settled down in an idiom which shows off her best side in a comfortable setting. It's not clear where she became fluent in Spanish, but that doesn't really matter. Her command of the language is more than enough to coax nuance and depth out of the poetic lyrics she employs. If you don't speak Spanish, the liner notes won't help much to explain the lyrics, but there's enough in the music to keep you occupied regardless.
While Lopez always keeps his guitar ready at the singer's side, the other instruments help build much of the record's sound: bass, tamboura, French horn, cello, trombone, flugelhorn, violin, flute, and, of course, percussion. The delicacy of this particular collection is matched by the relatively understated and subtle touches each player brings to the music. French horn player Chris Komer and violinist Jenny Scheinman stand out as notables in a field of restraint.
The extremely intuititve connection between Marta Topferova and Enrique Lopez shines through on "La Pradera," a sad, pared-down duet piece. Lopez employs minimalist arpeggiated chords to back the singer's simple cascading vocals, which eventually settle down on the observation that "night and day accompany my melancholy." No confusion there. A more upbeat feeling comes out during "Vuelo de Cigüeña" ("Flight of the Stork"), a sparkling meditation on dreaming and flight.
My only quibble with this recording lies in Topferova's delivery, which tends to be too even. She clearly subscribes to the "less is more" school (widely exemplified decades ago by Astrud Gilberto's near-whispers in the early days of bossa nova). Her voice is nearly perfect as far as pitch and articulation go, and she applies taste and sensitivity when it comes to interpreting lyrics, but there's just not much punch or color here. Provided you're not looking for drama or contrast, Sueño Verde spins a wonderfully soft and warm tale. It's an impressive debut which portends well for Topferova's musical future.
Personnel: Marta Topferova: vocals, maracas; Enrique Lopes: requinto, guitar, background vocals; Ira
Coleman: bass; Adam Cruz: tambora, snare drum, conga, cymbals, bell; Chris Komer: French horn;
Erik Friedlander: cello; Jason Jackson: trombone; Erik Jekabson: flugelhorn; Jenny Scheinman:
violine; Connie Grossman: flute.