By the third track on her latest album, C'est merveilleux, vocalist Johanne Cantara will hold listeners under her spell. With her dreamy croon guiding the way, India Song" melts the heart with effortless grace. Daniel Hubert's hypnotic bass, Muhammad Abdul Al-Khabyyr's deeply resonating trombone, Pierre Côté's crisply played guitar, and Samuel Joly's dynamic percussion conjure an intimate, dazzlingly beautiful atmosphere in which her voice is able to enchant the imagination and caress the heart. It's an awe-inspiring performance from everyone involved, but it's merely one of an album's worth of mesmerizing and timeless moments.
What Cantara does here is a cultural hybrid, uniting her French background with Brazilian jazz. The coffeehouse bossa nova music on C'est merveilleux has a sophisticated, globally aware vibe; this is not some cookie-cutter variation on the genre but a heartfelt, open-minded interpretation of it. On the title track, Cantara's honey-warm voice itself becomes an instrument; Côté's acoustic guitar, on the other hand, is so in synch with Cantara's every playful move that it's like they are caught in a duet.
Cantara uses her band well quite well throughout the record. They complement her talents with their individual and collective professionalism and technical precision. Among the most sublime cuts on C'est merveilleux is La fille d'Ipanéma," in which Côté's rainy-day riffs are stunningly immaculate. Add this to short list of bossa nova albums wherein the backing musicians are as essential to the songs' success as the singer. It's made for a soothing experience, a record whose primary goal is to chill out; however, it achieves that with passion and soul.