This followup to singer Luciana Souza's 2002 Grammy-nominated Brazilian Duos charts much the same territory: it's a lilting, luscious record of acoustic Brazilian song interpreted through guitar and voice duetsand, if anything, it's even better than its excellent predecessor. Guitarists Romero Lubambo and Marco Pereira return from the previous project, appearing on five and three cuts, respectively, out of the disc's twelve, with newcomers Swami Jr. and New York-based Guilherme Monteiro each logging two.
It's no surprise that the brilliant Lubambo grabs the lion's share of tracks on Duos II. A virtuoso's virtuoso, Lubambo has been Souza's most frequent touring and recording partner, and their rapport, which was on high display last month at Jazz Standard, has grown almost unearthly. In her liner notes for the new disc, Souza (pronounced SOH-za) states, "It has become clear to me how well the guitar can represent all of the elements of [Brazilian music]: the rich harmonies, the strong melodic content, the percussiveness, the varied rhythms and diverse styles.
Lubambo, on the disc and in performance, embodies these words. Having him onstage is like having an entire quartet present; you have to keep reminding yourself that it's only one man. He also shares Souza's warm, generous performing presence, and both onstage and on record he joyfully pushes her to her greatest heights. "Sambadalú, a devilishly twisting choro written expressly for Souza by Pereira, is a lively tour de force on the new disc; at the Standard, with Romero taking over the guitar, it quickly ascended into the sublime.
Souza continues to develop as a singer; on Duos II her pitch-perfect alto voice, which she often uses to match her partners' fleet-fingered guitar runs note for note, is more supple and expressive than ever. A deft manipulator of dynamics and master of the small detail, Souza gives full emotional expression to even the quietest-voiced moments, and she can break your heart as quickly as make you drop your jaw in astonishment. It's immaterial that she sings entirely in Portuguese on the disc; whenever she touches anything like Ivan Lins' "Aparecida (nothing short of ravishing on Duos II), the story is immediately crystal clear.
Other highlights include her godfather Hermeto Pascoal's playful "Chorino Pra Ele, which once more shows off her synchronicity with Lubambo to startling effect; the blissful, fast-paced "Sai Dessa, again with Lubambo; Caetano Veloso's delicate "No Carnaval ; and the reverie-like closer, "Você, written by Souza's musician parents Walter Santos and Tereza Souza in 1960 and never before recorded. The sole track to use electric guitar, "Você, is a beautiful finish to an altogether superb disc.
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.
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