Clara Moreno ‘Samba Esquema Novo de Novo’ (Far Out) 3/5

clara-morenoYouthful Brazilian singer Clara Moreno returns with an album devoted in whole to a reworking of the debut recording of Jorge Ben that included the signature tune, ‘Mas que nada’, and while as a whole it does not reach the same level of intensity of the original recording, this is nonetheless a reasonable attempt, with a more pared down sound and slightly jazzier in approach with a pared down band that includes trombone. When the tempo is high and Moreno responds in kind, the music is most convincing as on ‘Tim dom dom’. A duet with Wilton Simoninha works a treat on the uplifting mid-tempo groove of ‘Vem morena, vem’ while the ad-libs of the lead vocalist on ‘Chove Chuva’ indicate that Clara Moreno is fully capable of extending beyond the standard reading of the songs.
However, part of the problem on this occasion is that Moreno is by no means the first female Brazilian singer to interpret this repertoire and, in comparison to Marisa Monte in particular, the former tends to comes off a somewhat second best. This is the case of a somewhat lacklustre ‘Mas que nada’ that is taken at a slower tempo than per usual as is ‘Balança pema’ and neither come across as reproducing the magic of the originals and are simply too subdued in character. Both would benefit from a more explosive drum accompaniment. A brave effort, then, and one that respects the tradition of Brazilian music, but one that ultimately falls just short of truly reinvigorating the Ben songbook.

Tim Stenhouse