Obsession is vocalist Erika Matsuo's debut CD, but it comes after a long and varied musical career that includes the all-girl rock band Tear Drops, in her native Japan, and work with the City College of New York's Latin jazz band. This is the debut, therefore, of an experienced singer and it shows in Matsuo's confident approach.
The album's mix of tunes includes standards such as Cole Porter's "Night and Day" but focuses mainly on songs from Brazilian composers including Milton Nascimento and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Matsuo sings most of these in Portuguese, displaying an affinity with the Latin styles as well as for the languagemost effectively, on Djavan's "Samurai." The most satisfying performance, however, is Matsuo's rendition of a standardBilly Strayhorn's "My Little Brown Book." The singer's phrasing is inventive and atmospheric, with a real emotional involvement. The instrumental accompaniment is relatively sparsebass, drums, piano and tenor saxophoneand the arrangement suits the mood of the lyrics perfectly.
The musicians are uniformly excellent, providing tight, skilful accompaniment to Matsuo's vocals. Pianist Carlton Holmes shows particular skill on the slower numbers, accenting the vocals without ever attempting to overwhelm themmost notably on "Samurai." Guitarist Romero Lubambo demonstrates similar skill when he duets with the singer on Francis Hime and Chico Buarque's "Atras da Porta." Throughout the album drummer Willard Dyson and bassist Essiet Essiet combine to form a superb rhythm section with a real groove.
On the negative side, some of the song choices lack imagination"Night and Day" and Van Morrison's "Moondance" are overly familiar and these interpretations add nothing newand Matsuo's undoubted technical skill is not always balanced by a clear emotional involvement with the songs. But Obsession is still a promising debuta beautifully produced, finely performed, collection of songs from a confident vocalist with a developing jazz sensibility.
Night and Day; Bridges/Travessia; Samurai; Atras da Porta; Moondance; I Could Have Told You; Obsession; My Little Brown Book; Chega de Saudade; The Island; Someone to Light Up My Life; Oceano; Love for Life; I Close My Eyes.