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Emy Tseng: Sonho

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Fifty-plus years after saxophonist Stan Getz and singer/guitarist Astrud Gilberto captured composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and served up bossa nova for popular consumption, musicians continue to eagerly return to Brazilian classics. Logically, the integration of attractive bossa textures with the Great American Songbook has been another phenomenon. Thus, the bossa nova resource has been incredibly robust and long-lived.

With Sonho, her debut CD, Washington, DC-based vocalist Emy Tseng shrewdly embraces and expands the genre by selecting gorgeous material from Brazilian composers not commonly recognized or performed. And, when framed by an intelligent, artistically motivated team of players, the result is an exquisite bossa nova portrait delivered by a talented artist with a marvelously understated, yet appropriately passionate approach to the robust material.

Taiwanese-born and Ivy League educated, Tseng possesses vocal restraint and a delicate delivery that is elegant, beautiful—and passionate. She's never in competition with her lyric or with the accompanying musicians. Singing in both English and romantically flavored Portuguese, Tseng's ability to translate emotion from foreign language is superb. Her intonation and phrasing are deadly accurate across the date.

Virtually the entire CD is Brazilian—based, and it shines. In addition to an obligatory Jobim selection ("Brigas Nunca Mais"), the works of Brazilian composers such as Toninho Horta, Caetano Veloso, Baden Powell, Ivan Lins, and Chico Pinheiro are introduced. And it is in that bossa nova format that Tseng and crew really excel. The arrangements by Leonardo Lucini and Matvei Sigalov are superb and the orchestration assignments, such as pitting Tseng against Andy Connell's clarinet ("Coração Vagabondo") or Matvei' Sigalov's guitar and violin ("Na Beira Do Rio," "I Thought About You") help make the date memorable.

The exceptions to the South American tone are an oddly present but poetically delivered version of the Mamas and Papas' hit, "California Dreamin'" and two Great American Songbook selections, "I Thought About You" and "Close Your Eyes," both of which have a faint Blossom Dearie overtone. While Tseng's bossa nova chops are stellar, the Songbook material warrants an earthier, looser approach.

Sonho, which translates as "dream," introduces some exotically beautiful material performed by a vocal artist of significant talent and potential. It's a bravura first sojourn on Ipanema Beach.

Track Listing: Aquelas Coisas Todas; Deixa; California Dreamin'; Berimbau; Coracao Vagabundo; Brigas Nunca Mais; Heliahthella (Little Sunflower); se Dependesse De Mim; I Thought About You; Na Beira Do Rio; Close Your Eyes.

Personnel: Emy Tseng: vocals; Matvei Sigalov: acoustic guitar (1, 3, 7-9, 10), violin (9); Roberto Berimbau: percussion (1, 8, 10); David Jernigan: bass (1, 7, 9, 11); Alejandro Lucini: drums (1, 2, 4-8); Wayne Wilentz: keyboard (1, 6); Rogerio Souza: acoustic guitar (2, 4-6); Andy Connell: clarinet (2, 5), soprano saxophone (4, 6); Leonardo Lucini: bass (2, 4-6); Bruno Lucini: percussion (2, 4-6); Lyle Link: tenor saxophone (7).

Title: Sonho | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced

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