"Brazil. Perhaps the most intoxicating culture and location on the planet. The lushness and pulsating rhythms of the Amazonian forest (surpassed only by the percussive pulse of Bossa Nova); the sexy celebrations of Rio Carnivale (surpassed only by the orgiastic antics of the national soccer team); and the world's most saporous coffee (surpassed only by the richness of Dori Caymmi's sonorous crooning).
The aroma of the finest Brazilian bean has nothing on Cyammi's dulcet rendition of E Doce Morrer No Mar. I can't speak a word of Portuguese, but Cyammi demonstrates how well the Romance languages lend themselves to lyrical melody as he eases into the poignant, descending perfect 5th that begins each captivating phrase.
Surprisingly it is the mellower moments of this soundtrack that steal the spotlight from the percussive exuberance and bossa nova rhythms. There is a mesmeric minimalism to Chao De Estrelas, a virtuosic, unadorned, Spanish guitar performance by Baden Powell. Recorded up close and tactile we hear quite literally the finger tip precision that brings to life the lyrical beauty of the piece.
Throughout the CD the tones and subtle dynamics are as important as pitch and rhythm. There is a raw, acoustic integrity to it all that seems many more miles than Brazil from the frontier of glossy, North American pop.
Latin and South American music is enjoying something of a renaissance, of course, on the pop charts as well. A marvellous development, but this is the real deal.
Even the proleptic 007-chromaticism and romantic chorus arrangements of the ubiquitous Brazil (among the twenty most recorded songs of all time, and represented here by the venerable old recording of Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra) sound as fresh as the day Carmen Miranda's milliner returned from the orchard; and as animated, in fact, as their very first outing in Disney's Saludos Amigos.
One of the most deeply sensuous soundtracks of the year, I'm even prepared to forgive the egregious truncation of Chao De Estrelas, which leaves us hanging like a chad in Florida when it is faded at the most unexpected...
Published February 1, 2001