Is bossa nova supposed to be this sad? I thought it was supposed to keep things light and low key, cool and relaxed, in a culture where theres too much sun to over exert yourself. But this remarkable album reinterprets Antonio Jobims songs in a quietly radical way. It points up his similarities to classical composers like Debussy and Chopin. But it also brings out a bittersweet sadness at the heart of his music.
Its the deep, dark keening sound of the cello, the twilight voicings of the piano and the perfect, pure pitch of Paula Morelenbaums creamy voice. Its a cliché, but in this case its true: it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. Sometimes the combination is almost too rich, too sobbing, too dramatic, almost too beautiful. "Imagina", a duet with Ed Motta pulses with quietly suppressed longing, At times its surprisingly intense and maybe too much (over 71 minutes) to take at one sitting.
Perhaps the emotion expressed here is in part a requiem for Jobim, the inventor of bossa, who died from cancer in his fifties. Paula and Jacques Morelenbaum were both long time Jobim collaborators, and the album was partly recorded at his home in Rio De Janeiro, with Sakamoto sitting at Jobims own piano. Sakamoto was in a bossa nova group when a teenager, and his playing here seems thoroughly assured and emotionally sophisticated. Some of the material has never been played before, while songs like "Bonita" and "Fotografia" are more familiar. "Imagina", a duet with Ed Motta pulses with quietly suppressed longing, "Chanson Pour Michelle" featuring piano and cello alone is one of many highlights.
This is chamber music of great beauty, which should appeal to both classical music lovers and fans of bossa nova. Its a lovely album. Just dont play it too loud if youve just split up with someone. --Nick Reynolds
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