Thursday, May 5, 2011

"O Grande Amor"-DownBeat review, May 2011

DownBeat - May 2011 issue, Page 50
"O Grande Amor" - Reviewed by Kirk Silsbee
Rating: ****1/2

So often, singers function as featured entities, supported by but separate from the instrumental ensemble. This pairing of Brazilian singer Ithamara Koorax and the trio of Swiss trumpeter Peter Scharli is a rare instance of a voice working as another instrument. Koorax is singing songs here, to be sure, but her work is always within the instrumental context. As a result, this a quiet, unassuming gem of a recording.

Koorax and Scharli share simplicity of expression. That's not to say what they do is naive or rudimentary in any way. Her ethereal voice - singing in Portuguese throughout - packs much emotional implication in it. Likewise, his open trumpet - sounding fat enough to be taken for a cornet - always finds the shortest route to musical and emotional communication. With a voice scarcely larger (though an octave lower) than Blossom Dearie, Koorax authoritatively conjures compact majesty on the melodically beguiling "Setembro" and sings the rhythmic romp "Zum Zum" with no discernible fuss. Then she floats the title ballad with lighter-than-air musical pillow talk. This woman has manifold ability.

Scharli has a medium-dynamic attack and palpable body to his tone. He might not be as rhythmically ornamental as Koorax, but the contrast of his minimalism is a nice counterpoint to hers.

Pianist Hans-Peter Pfammetter is another minimal dynamo. Hammering one- and two-finger percussiveness on "Sandalia Dela" deftly hints at the Bahia carnaval without having to replicate it. He never overplays and instinctively leaves holes for Scharli to fill. This ensemble, and its collection of songs, is an inviting combination.

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