:: These reviews were originally published
:: in Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


Year-end biscuits

Biscoito Fino’s assorted treats.

Daniella Thompson

23 December 2003

In a remarkably short time, Biscoito Fino has emerged as Brazil’s most prestigious label—the one whose releases command attention for their content, production quality, and sheer star power. Whether you’re desperate to find a last-minute holiday gift or are looking for good music you can enjoy for years to come, BF is a good place to look. Here are but a few of their 2003 releases that would do any collection proud.

If you’re a choro lover, you won’t want to miss Ao Jacob, seus Bandolins, a two-disc set conceived by the inevitable (and irreplaceable) Hermínio Bello de Carvalho and offering a selection of Jacob Pick Bittencourt’s best-known tunes interpreted by the cream of Brazil’s musicians, as well as a few compositions not written by but closely associated with Jacob do Bandolim the performer. Disc 1 is live and comprises such pearls as “Doce de Côco” in an unusual flute-accordion rendition (Altamiro Carrilho & Kiko Horta); Radamés Gnattali’s complete suite Retratos performed by the original members of Camerata Carioca with Joel Nascimento reprising Jacob’s 1964 part for the second time (the first was in 1979); another “Doce de Côco”—this one vocal—presented by the wonderful Zezé Gonzaga, accompanied by Mauricio Carrilho and Pedro Amorim; a spectacularly flamboyant “Assanhado” with Armandinho and Yamandú Costa; “Treme-Treme” with Jacob’s conjunto, Época de Ouro, featuring a memorable pandeiro imrovisation by Jorginho; “Remelexo,” again with Época de Ouro, this time with Déo Rian on bandolim; and the classic “Vibrações,” where Joel Nascimento takes a reunion turn with the conjunto.

Disc 2 was recorded in the studio and brings more delícias: Joyce singing “Noites Cariocas” accompanied by Rodrigo Lessa and Quarteto Maogani; Zé Renato doing “Benzinho” with Guinga on guitar; “Falta-me Você” with Olívia and Francis Hime; Aldir Blanc intoning his lyrics to “Bola Preta” with Água de Moringa’s accompaniment; and a basketful of prime instrumentals.

Jacob also features on another release wrought by Hermínio. Indisputably, the reissue of the year was Elizeth Cardoso’s 5-CD box set Faxineira das Canções, which included the fabled 1968 concert at Teatro João Caetano with Jacob, Época de Ouro, and Zimbo Trio. In the same box came Elizeth’s three majestic late works: Luz e Esplendor, Todo o Sentimento (in which Raphael Rabello accompanies her on guitar), and Ary Amoroso. Sadly, owing to permit issues, the box is already out of print, but some retailers are still offering it—sometimes unbundled into individual discs.

Elizeth Cardoso was the singer chosen by Vinicius de Moraes and the young Tom Jobim to record the first full LP dedicated to their songs, Canção do Amor Demais. The 1958 album marked the birth of the bossa nova with “Chega de Saudade,” which included the participation of João Gilberto’s groundbreaking guitar. Elizeth always wanted to re-record the album, since she believed that her voice at that time had been too high. Now comes Olivia Byington with a voice equally high and breaths new life into Tom and Vinicius’ classics. Like the original, this production maintains a chamber atmosphere. The arrangements are by Leandro Braga, who understands how to frame a lyrical song. He accompanies the singer on piano, while the guitar parts are in the expert hands of aces João Lyra, Marcelo Gonçalves, and Marco Pereira and the bandolim is played by Hamilton de Holanda. Dirceu Leitte turns in sensitive performances on flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet, while Bororó (bass) and Beto Cazes (percussion) keep a slow but assured rhythm. Exercising great restraint, Byington beautifully conveys the melancoly and longing that suffuse these songs.

The orchestral side of Antonio Carlos Jobim is presented in the 2-CD set Jobim Sinfônico. Seventeen of the composer’s works were adapted for symphonic orchestra by his son Paulo Jobim and the composer Mario Adnet. These were recorded live by the 70-piece Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo under the baton of Roberto Minczuk, with the participation of leading MPB instrumentalists, a chorus, and the singers Milton Nascimento, Maúcha Adnet, and Muiza Adnet. Among the unusual tracks on disc 1 are four movements from the 1956 opera Orfeu da Conceição (matrix of the film Orfeu Negro); four movements from Brasília, Sinfonia da Alvorada (composed on commission from president Juscelino Kubitschek for the inauguration of the new Brazilian capital in 1960); and the hitherto unpublished “Lenda” and “Prelúdio.” Jobim dedicated “Lenda” to the memory of his father and conducted it on his 28th birthday in Radamés Gnattali’s radio program Quando os Maestros se Encontram. Rounding off the selection are “ A Felicidade” (Maúcha Adnet in Nelson Riddle’s arrangement) and “Imagina” (with pianist Marcos Nimrichter in Adnet’s arrangement).

Disc 2 contains several well-known songs, such as “Matita Perê” (sung by Milton Nascimento in Claus Ogerman’s arrangement), “Canta, Canta Mais” (Ogerman), and “Garota de Ipanema” (Eumir Deodato). Jobim’s film music is represented by the four movements of the Crônica da Casa Assassinada soundtrack (the music first appeared in the album Matita Perê in an arrangement for 12 violins and five cellos) and by “Gabriela” from Gabriela, Cravo e Canela. The lesser known “Bangzália” receives Adnet’s adaptation of Dori Caymmi’s arrangement for the 1985 TV mini series O Tempo e o Vento. The choro “Meu Amigo Radamés”—Jobim’s tribute to his great mentor—receives an expanded arrangement for orchestra and chorus.

One of Tom Jobim’s most prominent heirs in the firmament of Brazilian music is Francis Hime, who even followed in Tom’s footsteps and composed his own version of the Sinfonia do Rio de Janeiro. Hime’s delightful new CD Brasil Lua Cheia continues in the same orchestrated vein. All the songs are previously unrecorded and co-authored with a list of partners as varied as Lenine, Adriana Calcanhotto, Paulinho da Viola, Joyce, Moraes Moreira, Paulo Cesar Pinheiro, Geraldo Carneiro, Cacaso, Olivia Hime, and Vinicius de Moraes. Noted by his absence is Hime’s most frequent partner, Chico Buarque. Francis does all the singing (in a voice and style that recall Chico’s), with guest appearances by Adriana Calcanhotto, Lenine, and Paulinho da Viola. The sound is big but not overly lush, allowing the samba to shine through.

Speaking of samba, a welcome release of the past year has been the 4-CD box set Acerto de Contas de Paulo Vanzolini. This comprehensive songbook honoring the world-famous herpetologist and sambista from São Paulo includes almost all Vanzolini’s songs, interpreted by artists who are also the composer’s friends from various periods in his long life. Vanzolini was a close friend of Sérgio Buarque de Hollanda, and five of the latter’s seven children are present here: Chico Buarque sings “Quando Eu For, Eu Vou Sem Pena,”; Miúcha raises her voice in “Samba Erudito” and “Raiz,”; Cristina Buarque (the quintessential Vanzolini interpreter) can be heard in “Falta de Mim,” “Noite Longa,” “Mente,” and “Morte É Paz”; Ana de Hollanda appears in “Noites de Vigília” and “Samba Triste”; and Piii takes on “Peça de Albene.”

But that’s not all. Heavyweight sambistas like Paulinho da Viola, Elton Medeiros, Martinho da Vila, and Eduardo Gudin turn out to pay homage to the master. Vanzolini’s best known song, “Ronda” is reprised by its first interpreter, Márcia. A host of paulista artists young and old complete the full repertoire in fitting style. Special mention goes to the lovely packaging graced with watercolor illustrations by Francisca do Val, all relatd to Vanzolini’s life.

A sambista even older than Vanzolini is the baiana Dona Edith do Prato of Santo Amaro da Purificação. Now 87, this specialist in samba de roda (whose style recalls the pernambucana Dona Selma do Coco) has been singing all her life, although her recording career began rather late, on Caetano Veloso’s album Araçá Azul. As Dona Edith’s name implies, her specialty is playing knife-and-plate. In 2002 she recorded the disc Vozes da Purificação, which was released in a limited edition. Then came Maria Bethânia and reissued the album on her own new label Quitanda, which is distributed by Biscoito Fino. In a year full of excellent releases, his CD is one of my very favorites. If you’re a stickler for authenticity, make sure you don’t miss it. Eleven of the songs are in the public domain, and those are the ones I prefer. Most belong to the time before samba had migrated from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro and thus possess a historic flavor, enhanced by the clapping and collective singing of a group of elderly baianas from Santo Amaro. Bethânia participates in three tracks and Caetano in another. Other members of the Velloso family are also in evidence, including Caetano’s son Moreno and his nephew Jota Velloso, the album’s producer.

This past year, Maria Bethânia demonstrated that going independent can pay. Given the brushoff by BMG because of her low sales volume, the singer signed with Biscoito Fino and began releasing the kind of music she likes to do. Last year’s double CD Maricotinha Ao Vivo (now available in DVD) did so well that she followed it up with an album that few in the industry would have thought commercial—the religious Cânticos Preces Súplicas à Senhora dos Jardins do Céu. You guessed it: it’s an excellent album. Not content to stop there, Bethânia established her own label and released another corker: Brasileirinho. The disc is true to its title: Brazilian through and through, and without the slightest concession to commercial concerns. We can all learn a lot about Brazilian music with Bethânia, and the divas of her generation can learn about how to revive a flagging career by taking the path less traveled.

The new film Apolônio Brasil—Campeão da Alegria hasn’t reached our shores yet, but the soundtrack album is available for enjoyment on cold winter nights by the fire. It is a bouquet of 16 sentimental songs—some vintage compositions, some especially created for the film—all beautifully produced and performed. The principal singer is the film’s star, Marco Nanini. He is a very assured crooner in tunes such as “Nossos Momentos” (Luiz Reis/Haroldo Barbosa), “Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Você” (Tom & Vinicius), and “Coração Vagabundo”(Caetano Veloso). Particularly devastating is his rendition of the gorgeous “Outra Vez, Nunca Mais” (Sueli Costa/Abel Silva), a song that brings me to tears every time. The tango “Vestígios” (David Tygel), performed in Spanish, is another fine moment.

Nanini’s feminine countepart is Alessandra Verney, who joins in the duets “Coração Vagabundo,” “Ponto Final” (José Maria de Abreu/Jair de Amorim), and “Valsa de uma Cidade” (Ismael Neto/Antônio Maria), the latter including a memorable participation by Os Cariocas. On her own, Alessandra aquits herself honorably in Elizeth Cardoso’s signature song, “Canção de Amor” (Chocolate/Elano de Paula). The disc’s musical director is David Tygel, and the orchestrations were made by Leandro Braga and Maurício Maestro, who also conducted. The CD booklet is designed in a beguiling retro style. I can’t wait to see the film.


Copyright © 2003–2014 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.