Joyce Moreno ‘Raiz’ (Roots) (Far Out) 4/5

joyce-morenoLong-time Far Out label singer Joyce has gone back over the early musical influences in her life for a new project that is strong on classic melodies and yet still sufficiently wide-ranging in composers not to fall into the trap of being yet another bossa nova tribute album and the singer is a cut or two above ever needing to resort to nostalgia. Joyce has excelled throughout her career in perfecting the art of wordless scat vocalese and deploys this to wonderful effect in the intro to a Johnny Alf composition, ‘Céu e Mar’ which is a gently uplifting number. Quite possibly Alf is deserving of an entire tribute album at some point. Tania Maria is another singer who owes him a great debt of gratitude and they are by no means the only Brazilian singers who have drawn from his songbook. Indeed, if one had to classify the common threads of this album, it would be that Joyce has assembled some of the all-time greats of the Brazilian songbook, but has carefully selected some of the lesser known pieces to showcase. A case in point is her interpretation of Ary Barroso’s ‘Na Baixa do Sapateiro’ which is ostensibly a mid-tempo vehicle and here the singer receives some glorious accompaniment from the band who are consistently strong throughout the recording session and are able to change gear as and when required. A leisurely take on ‘Copacabana’ (not the Barry Manilow song!) provides a gentle opener to the album while at a brisk pace ‘Meu Pião’ typifies Joyce at her very best on an uptempo breezer of a tune. The pared down, acoustic jazzy environment suits Joyce’s vocals to perfection and on the more famous numbers such as ‘O Barquinho’ and ‘Desafinado’ the jazz-inflected guitar and piano licks enhance the vocal performance no end. An uptempo bossa-jazz piece by Luiz Eca, ‘Tamba’, is notable for some excellent drum work from Tutti Moreno and an excellent piano solo while Joyce engages in some delightful wordless scat. The only pity is that a January European tour will include dates in London exclusively for the UK.

Tim Stenhouse