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Bossa nova blossomed in the public eye a half century ago and, though it isn't a pop radio staple anymore, it still retains its firm standing in the world of jazz and in its native Brazil. Those who were there at the beginning, or worked with the originators of this style at a later date, have continued to maintain their audience by surfing the waves of the beautiful and bouncy bossa and samba styles, but they have some competition now. Younger artists who work in this territory may not have had the benefit of many, or any, first hand experiences with those founding fathers, but some of them have still found a way to incorporate their own voices into this music while paying tribute at the altar of Antonio Carlos Jobim and the like; Mauricio Pessoa is part of this new breed.
Pessoa's music is at once classic sounding and modern, as it adheres to the tried-and-true formulas at the heart of his homeland's music, while simultaneously absorbing what has come through the Brazilian jazz pipeline in the past. His charming voice is an amalgam of Joao Gilberto, Vinicius Cantuaria and Caetano Veloso, with a hint of David Byrne thrown in for good measure. His guitar work, subtle and steady as it is, also gives nods to some of those men, and many others who blazed that particular trail.
Habitat houses ten numbers that speak to Pessoa's easy way with words, moods and grooves. He bookends the album with a light, flowing opener ("Boca No Lodo") and a joyous, choir-and-strings aided closer ("Estrada De Terra"), but it's not all sunshine and rainbows in between. A more pensive mood comes to the fore on "Prisma," which features a stripped-down sound with guitar, vocals, bass and toy piano, and a sense of the dramatic takes hold on the aptly named "Saudade." The majority of Pessoa's vocals are in Portuguese, but he ventures out of his comfort zone to take a stab at English on two occasions ("Linda" and "Summer Rain"). The natural vocal grace that he exhibits elsewhere doesn't carry over very well to these numbers, but he gets points for trying.
While Pessoa is still in his early 30s, he exhibits the talent and taste of a seasoned veteran. He makes music that speaks to the soul and elevates the Brazilian aural arts.
Track Listing: Boca No Lodo; Quando Falas Coracao; Prisma; Tulipa Turca; Linda; Saudade; Tenho Guardado Em Meu Peito; Summer Rain; Agua Da Fonte; Estrada De Terra.