Except for two balladsthe cosmopolitan "Carinhoso with her Brazilian jazz fusion compatriots Azymuth, and Herbie Hancock's title trackIthamara Koorax's ninth album is her most adventurous release. It seems constructed to honor legendary Brazilian vocalist Flora Purim and her husband/bandleader/percussionist Airto. This Brazilian Butterfly soars and flutters while multiple percussionists (often as many as four on the same song, most often led by the late and legendary Dom Um Romão, with Koorax frequently flailing away among them) knit together, pull apart, then reweave hot thick blankets of Brazilian rhythm.
Romão's "Amor Em Jacuma occasions an international jazz jam as Ron Carter's thoroughly upright acoustic bass and Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba's roiling piano set table for a solo helping of meaty trombone from Raul de Souza of Brazil. Pianist Francesco Gazzara lovingly renders Hancock's title tune, especially in his solo, which builds up chords then reconsiders their construction in equal parts musical architecture and alchemy. Koorax breathes her most romantic vocal, and it's hard to imagine that many mortals can resist her languid invitation to "Stay awhile... which just seems to float throughout the air forever, like... a Brazilian butterfly.
The remaining material seems specifically composed and arranged to stress test Koorax's four-octave range. She swings joyously from the framework of Milton Nascimento's "Escravos de Jo, a melodic abstraction airy and inscrutablenot packed full but no less complexas Joni Mitchell's Shadows & Light collaborations with Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius. Her voice soars above the Afro-macumba chant "Lamento Negro and streams bright as dawn to open "Fica Mal Com Deus, then completely changes tone and color by digging into the low notes with the growling fury of a blasting trumpet.
The opening "O Vento and closing "Frenetico drive Koorax's Brazilian journey further into outer space: Her voice intricately navigates the thorny, shimmering thicket of electric piano and four percussionists in "O Vento and hangs in "Frenetico, where the background frame of congas, bass drum and cymbal (not her voice) emerges as the lead instruments. Each is an excellent vehicle for discovering, then remembering, that Brazilian Butterfly is Koorax's most fertile adventure in exploring the boundaries of contemporary Brazilian vocal music.
O Vento; Escravos de J
Ithamara Koorax: vocals, percussion, mouth percussion; Dom Um Rom