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Two Duos Go Brazilian

Jerome Wilson By

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The male-female duos on these two recordings delve deeply into Brazilian music, but do so in very different ways.

Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini
Setting Rays Of Summer
Self Produced
2019

This is a duo recording in the true sense because the only sounds on this disc come from the trombone and voice of Natalie Cressman and the guitar and voice of Ian Faquini. The resulting blend carries a powerful intimacy in the sound of their harmonized voices sailing over supple acoustic guitar and the occasional blast of smooth, pumping trombone. Some tracks are swooningly languid and romantic but there are also edgier, faster-paced songs like the samba "Mandinguera" and the dramatic "Tere" where the two voices twist around each other with urgency.

Most of the singing is in Portuguese but Cressman also sings in French on the achingly lovely "L'Aube" and English on "Setting Rays Of Summer" and "My Heart Again Will Rise." Faquini sings the lead on "Debandada" backed by Cressman multi-tracked into an angelic choir. Their instrumental interplay has its own charms, demonstrated on "My Heart" and the instrumental "Museu Nacional" where Cressman's trombone blows sad melodies with sensitive guitar support. This CD conveys a quiet, understated closeness that is really touching.

Benji Kaplan and Rita Figueiredo
Benji & Rita
Self Produced
2019

The sound the husband and wife team of Benji Kaplan and Rita Figueiredo concoct is the polar opposite of the Cressman-Faquini CD. Instead of small, this ambitious disc goes big with off-kilter and sometimes startling orchestral arrangements by Kaplan. His music is a combination of airy harmonies and complex rhythms featuring flutes and strings that sound like a Latin variation on Debussy. Over this Figueiredo's theatrical and earthy singing make her sound like a Brazilian version of Lotte Lenya singing Kurt Weill as she winds her way through the bumpy melodies of tracks like "San Francisco e brasileiro" and "Piocera."

Kaplan brings surprising juxtapositions into almost every track, like a clarinet doing klezmer over hand percussion on "Zenite e Nadir" and a brooding mix of clarinet, bassoon and marimba over a tango rhythm on "Lundu dos orixas." "Memorial Day" has added layers of martial brass and marching drums that evoke Charles Ives while a wall of saxophones and brass underscore intense duo vocals on "Santa Efigenia." There are respites from the heavy orchestration in a few pieces that are mostly voice and guitar like the samba "Nao armo no moco," the romantic "Passatempo" and the syncopated "Swing do jazz." Kaplan even has his own solo vocal feature in "Bryant Park" where he talk-sings a love song over a field of seesawing strings and faux-harpsichord.

Rita Figueiredo's thick, sensual vocals are effective no matter what sort of musical crazy quilt she sings above, while Benji Kaplan's music has a surprise around every corner. This is a Brazilian jazz record that is a wildly imaginative, one-of-a-kind effort.

Tracks and Personnel

Setting Rays Of Summer

Tracks: Tere; L'Aube; Lenga Lenga; Debandada; Setting Rays Of Summer; Mandingueira; My Heart Again Will Rise; Uirapuru; Museu Macional; Sereia.

Personnel: Natalie Cressman: trombone, vocals; Ian Faquini: guitars; vocals.

Benji & Rita

Tracks: Sao Francisco e brasileiro; Piocera; Memorial Day; Valsa da metropole; Zenite e Nadir; Impetuosa atracao; Swing do jazz; Cajubim; Nao armo no moco; Passatempo; Bryant Park; Lundu dos orixas; A moura do maracaxa.

Personnel: Rita Figueiredo: voice, lyrics; Benji Kaplan: compositions, arrangements, guitar, voice; Katarina Owens: alto piccolo, bass flutes; Torin Olsen: C flute; Kristen Mather de Andrade: clarinet, bass clarinet; Bill Owens: flugelhorn, trumpet; Keith Kile: tuba; Rogerio Boccato: percussion; Delaney Stockli: violin I; Francesca Dardani: violin II; Elise Frawley: viola; Reenat Pinchos: cello; Michael O'Brien: upright bass; Joel Kaplan: frame drum, dumbek; Anna Pennington: oboe; Manuel Ramos: clarinet; Briana Lehman: bassoon; Owen Summers: piano, electric clavichord; Klaus Mueller: electric synth sitar; Andrew Hadro: alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax; Matthew McDonald: trombone; Max Seigel: bass trombone; Scott Still: marimba.
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