Although Rio de Janeiro-based vocalist Ithamara Koorax has long been established as a recording artist in her native Brazil as well as in Europe and Japan, it wasn't until 2000 that American listeners were introduced to her unique vocal stylings on Milestone's Serenade in Blue. That release helped position her for a 4th-place finish in the Female Singer category--behind Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, and Dianne Reeves--in the 2002 Down Beat Readers Poll.
Back in 2000, Ithamara was voted for the first time one of the world's best jazz singers by Down Beat, also appearing as #3 Best Beyond Artist, behind only Sting and Carlos Santana, and ahead of such heavyweights as Tom Waits, Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell. Serenade In Blue (featuring Deodato, Jay Berliner, Azymuth, Dom Um Romao, Kevin Jasper, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Nelson Angelo) was voted #7 Best Beyond Album in that same 2000 Down Beat Readers Poll.
Ithamara's extraordinary follow-up CD, Love Dance: The Ballad Album, will certainly establish her artistry in the most convincing possible terms. It was just voted #5 Best Beyond Album in the 2003 Down Beat Readers Poll, behind only the latest discs by Norah Jones, Steely Dan, Radiohead and The Roots. Love Dance was also acclaimed as one of the Top 10 Vocal Albums for 2003, by the critics of the prestigious The Independent Weekly.
For this new album--inspired by Mark Murphy's 1988 Milestone session September Ballads--Koorax and her producer Arnaldo DeSouteiro assembled a phenomenal international cast as well as a challenging, inspiring repertoire. Singing in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Koorax has chosen unexpected beauties from Brazilian masters including Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfa, Marcos Valle, and Ivan Lins; from Claus Ogerman and pianist Jurgen Friedrich; and even Vernon Duke (a tender reading of "April in Paris," recorded as a duet with Bonfa just a few months before his death).
Among Ithamara's accompanists are guitarist John McLaughlin (on "Man Alone," his first recording backing a vocalist), Azymuth ("Love Dance"), Marcos Valle (a duet performance of his composition "Flame"), and Gonzalo Rubalcaba (offering piano backing on "La Puerta" and Jobim's "Amparo"). Other tunes are Jobim's "Ligia," "Someday," "Blauauge," and "I Loved You" (composed by the brilliant arranger Claus Ogerman).
Ithamara Koorax (pronounced ee-tah-MAH-rah KOH-rax) is a native of Rio de Janeiro, where she still resides. "My family, Polish Jews, fled Europe during the second World War," the 37-year-old vocalist explains. "I started to study singing and classical piano when I was very young, just five years old. My concentration, of course, was on lyric singing, classical music, mostly European music.