All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

7

Maria Mendes: Along the Road

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Virtuosity needn't be on display at every moment; restraint, in fact, is an important yet often overlooked aspect of true virtuosity. Norma Winstone is a clear example; certainly capable of plenty, more often than not the British singer's performances are defined by nuance, subtlety and a direct line to the heart of the music. Maria Mendes is another, with the spirit of Brazil looming large over this young Portuguese-born/Netherlands-resident singer's impressive debut, Along the Road—a nine-song set of standards, material by well-known South American composers, one original and one very pleasant surprise.

With harmonicist Wim Dijkgraaf sharing the frontline, Mendes is ably supported by a trio of Dutch musicians clearly conversant in both jazz and Brazilian traditions. The set opens on a gently optimistic note with Brazilian songwriter Ivan Lins' enticing 1989 hit, "Love Dance." From the get-go, Mendes finds the essence of these songs and, with a pristine, pure voice and the slightest turns of phrase, makes each one her own. "Love Dance" also features a lovely, lyrical solo from Dijkgraaf; unmistakably influenced, in his formative years, by the great Toots Thielemans, with Dijkgraaf's now-personal confluence of "elegance, sophistication and emotion," as accurately described on his website, the harmonicist may well turn out to be the aging Belgian's torch-carrier.

The session doesn't exactly burn, but it does simmer on Dori Caymmi's "Obsession," a showcase for Mendes' accurate (and impressive) articulation, empathically supported by pianist Karel Boehlee, who—alongside bassist Clemens van der Feen (pianist Harmen Fraanje's trio) and drummer Jasper van Hulten (trumpeter Eric Vloeimans' Gatecrash)—ratchets the energy up, pushing and pulling with Dijkgraaaf during the harmonicist's thematically focused solo. Mendes' wordless improvisation at the song's end epitomizes her effortless control, leading to a final upper register note that she holds, crystal clear and strong, for ten full seconds before fading with a gently introduced vibrato.

Unlike some singers, Mendes' vibrato is simply one more color on her palette rather than a stylistic constant. And if she avoids overt virtuosity at the end of "Obsession," Mendes proves she can scat with the best of them on Hermeto Pascoal's enduring "Chorinho Pra Ele," which also gives bassist van der Feen a rare but fine moment in the spotlight. As for Mendes, her articulation is rapid-fire and absolute accurate, as she proves as capable of navigating Pascoal's changes as her band mates.

But beyond a soft look at "Come Rain or Come Shine" and a metrically playful yet wholly organic look at "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," it's Mendes' "Olha Só No Meu Olhar" that's Along the Road's biggest surprise. On this reverent yet personal adaptation of Pat Metheny's "Always and Forever," from the guitarist's classic Secret Story (Nonesuch, 1992), the singer takes the more expansively orchestral original and, with the addition of her own Portuguese lyrics, makes it even more intimate.

All too often, young jazz singers feel the need to prove something and all the attendant excesses that go along with it; on the elegant, gentle, joyous Along the Road, Mendes makes clear she has absolutely nothing to prove but plenty of promise and much to say.

Track Listing: Love Dance; Obsession; Saia Preta; Come Rain or Come Shine; Olha Só No Meu Olhar; Somewhere Over the Rainbow; So Many Stars; Chorinho Pra Ele; Varão; Começar de Novo.

Personnel: Maria Mendes: vocals; Wim Dijkgraaf: harmonica; Karel Boehlee: piano; Clemens van der Feen: acoustic bass; Jasper van Hulten: drums.

Title: Along the Road | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Dot Time Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Olha so no meu Olhar

Olha so no meu Olhar

Maria Mendes
Along the Road

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Innocentia

Innocentia

Sony Music / Harmonia Mundi
2015

buy
Along the Road

Along the Road

Dot Time Records
2013

buy

Related Articles

Read Elvesang CD/LP/Track Review
Elvesang
by John Kelman
Published: February 17, 2018
Read Necessary Arrangements CD/LP/Track Review
Necessary Arrangements
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 17, 2018
Read Uniting Beats (Ritmos Que Unen) CD/LP/Track Review
Uniting Beats (Ritmos Que Unen)
by Barry Witherden
Published: February 17, 2018
Read Influences CD/LP/Track Review
Influences
by Don Phipps
Published: February 17, 2018
Read async Remodels CD/LP/Track Review
async Remodels
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: February 17, 2018
Read Way Out West CD/LP/Track Review
Way Out West
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: February 16, 2018
Read "Tasty Tunes" CD/LP/Track Review Tasty Tunes
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 11, 2018
Read "Pocono Git-Down" CD/LP/Track Review Pocono Git-Down
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 19, 2017
Read "Nightfall" CD/LP/Track Review Nightfall
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 6, 2017
Read "Through The Glass" CD/LP/Track Review Through The Glass
by Nicola Negri
Published: March 25, 2017
Read "Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts" CD/LP/Track Review Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 20, 2017
Read "Another North" CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017