Joyce and Joao Donato ‘Aquarius’ (Far Out) 4/5

Formerly a Japanese only album, this excellent release allows is to listen to the pairing of two of Brazil’s finest musicians and in some ways recalls the seminal collaboration between Elis Regina and Tom Jobim, ‘Elis and Tom’, from 1974. This new recording is at once an uplifting and introspective experience with restrained and impassioned vocals from Joyce on the one hand and subtle and always refined acoustic and electric piano (including fender rhodes) playing from Donato. Mid-tempo bliss comes in the shape of ‘Amor das estrelas’ and it is the apparent simplicity in the delivery that impresses and belies the musical geniuses at play. This is a song that in structure at least is not dissimilar to ‘Waters of March’ by Elis and Tom. A classic interpretation of the standard ‘Xango e da Bac’ provides the pretext for an uptempo samba with scat vocals from Joyce while the catchy ‘E muito mas’ serves as a vehicle to highlight Joyce’s glorious voice. Two of Joyce’s old chestnuts and most loved songs among her fans, ‘Feminina’ and ‘Tardes cariocas’, are reprised to good effect with the latter featuring Joao cooking up some tasty vamps on electric piano. Elsewhere there is a reprise of ‘Amazonas 2’ and Joyce is totally at home on this song which is taken at a slightly slower tempo than on the original. Overall a strong album throughout and one longs to hear the pairing in a live context where both their extensive back catalogues can be heard in depth.

Tim Stenhouse