“Women of Brazil” captures the mystique of female Brazilian singers without even including Astrud Gilberto’s “The Girl From Ipanema,” which would have been an overshadowing cliché anyway.
Although the 11-track compilation features a wide range of women (with varying degrees of recognizability) tweaking the formula, “Women of Brazil” mostly sticks to the script and delivers song after song of sultry rhythms and seductive voices.
There are horns aplenty, generally muted, as well as deftly played acoustic guitars, a bevy of percussion and the occasional keyboard, some whistling and flute. The arrangements are uniformly alluring whether they are bare or lush.
Of course it’s the women at the microphone who matter most, and they are likewise consistently enchanting. The clear voices of Graca Cunha (“Saudade e Solidao”)and Maguinha (“Gema”) ring out with warmth, while Flavia Coelho (“A Fo-to”) and Luisa Maita (“Mangue e Fogo”) employ darker intonations and Clara Moreno (“Balanco Zona Sul”)and Mart’nalia (“Para Comigo”) tap into simmering grooves.
The Italian act Nossa Alma Canta kicks off the collection with a scintillating “Bossanova,” but it’s Sao Paulo native Mir-iam Maria who brings it all home at the end with “Boi de Haxixe,” especially once the rhythm kicks in.
Elements of jazz, folk and electronica seep discretely into the mix, but one of the most rewarding characteristics of “Women of Brazil” is that it stays true to its Brazilian roots as it swirls around from bossa nova to samba.
And with so many great women in the foreground, it never goes wrong.
Rating: 4 stars (out of five)
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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