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Elizete Cardoso - Canção do Amor Demais

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Artist: Elizete Cardoso

Album: Canção do Amor Demais

Label: Mbari Musica

Review date: Jul. 10, 2009

Fifty-three years ago, feeling a distinct lack of Brazilian feel to the jazz and pop music flooding down from the north, António Carlos Jobim and a few friends in Rio de Janeiro decided to take matter into their own hands and create something uniquely Brazilian. Combining the rhythms of samba, the instrumentation of choro, and the smooth, Latin-tinged jazz then percolating out of California, this small group of innovators gave birth to bossa nova. The first songs, written by Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, quickly spread across Brazil, picked up by acoustic ensembles all over the country. Then, with the release of an entire LP of lushly produced music featuring the smoky voice of Elizete Cardoso, bossa nova came to the attention of jazz musicians and aficionados worldwide. Mbari Música has now re-released this first LP, Canção do Amor Demais, with both the original liner notes handwritten by Moraes and new comments by João Santos (in Portuguese only), telling the story of the birth of bossa nova.

Audiophiles should be warned that this disc was digitized from vinyl, not from the original masters, a process that faithfully preserved the surface noise as well as the aural warmth of the original medium. Listeners more interested in music than ideal response curves, however, will quickly focus on the variety and complexity of early bossa nova. Yes, there are canonical sounds – the simple combination of acoustic bass, violão, brushed snare and voice in “Outra vez” (“One More Time”) stands out as the progenitor of the sound now indelibly associated with the later “Samba de uma nota só” (“One Note Samba”) and “Garota de Ipanema” (“Girl from Ipanema”) – but there are also French lounge-style ballads with massed strings and trombones (“Medo de amar”), and cool jazz piano ballads (“Estrada branca”). The first cut, “Chega de saudade,” which was the first hit single in the style, begins with trombone and violão, but quickly introduces the classic samba/choro instrumental backing for Cardoso.

The instrumental break featuring paired trombones sliding around the vocal melody is alone worth the cost of the disc, but throughout the standout feature is Cardoso’s singing. Alto range, with a bit of Ella Fitzgerald’s playfulness married to Billie Holiday’s slippery timing, Cardoso is in front and in charge from beginning to end. “Serenata do adeus,” with its 1930s movie soundtrack feel, allows Cardoso to switch between quiet patter and full-throated song. “As praias desertas,” on the other hand, is slow and smooth, with strings, piano, and understated snare underneath Cardoso’s voice, Jobim’s piano occasionally commenting on her lines, is an atmospheric set piece in which one can almost hear the clink of glasses and the murmur of waiters.

Canção do Amor Demais is required listening for bossa nova fans, and anyone interested in the roots of the collaboration between northern and southern branches of jazz. Listeners impatient with the umpteenth high school jazz band rendition of “Girl from Ipanema” are particularly advised to give this disc a chance to rearrange their expectations from the genre. Jobim’s arrangements, and especially Cardoso’s voice, will reward the effort.

By Richard Miller

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