Leila Pinheiro and Nelson Faria ‘Céu e Mar’ (Far Out) 4/5

leila-pinheiro-nelson-fariaBrazilian singer Leila Pinheiro has been performing in her native land for some thirty years or more and this pairing with guitarist Nelson Faria is like a trip back in time to the 1970s and recalls that genial pairing of Elis Regina and Tom Jobim from 1974. Indeed Pinheiro most resembles in voice that of arguably Brazil’s greatest ever female voice in Elis Regina and that is no mean feat, though she is no mere vocal stooge. The repertoire spans the whole gamut of what one could justafiably call the great Brazilian songbook (in opposition to the great American songbook) and this takes in some of the most inventive writing duos in contemporary music. An immediate winner is the song that Joao Bosco and Aldir Blanc composed for the former ‘Bala com bala. Whereas the original version featured a gorgeous samba percussion in the background, here Pinheiro comes into her own with vocal gymnastics that Annie Ross could have laid down in her prime and in a Brazilian setting that Tania Maria and Joyce have at times attempted. This funky ditty is all the more memorable for the guitar licks laid down by Faria. In general the album is quite melancholic and indeed reflective in nature and this side to Brazilian music is often overlooked in the UK. Far Out are to be commended for showcasing this additional dimension to Brazilian music which makes it all the richer. The duo are best heard when the bare bones beauty of the songs is revealed as on ‘Doce presença’, or on the meditative Bach-sounding ‘Embaraçao’, a joint composition by Francis Hime and Chico Buarqué. Nelson Faria can best be described as a similarly intimate sounding Joe Pass and certainly one imagines that both singer and guitarist have been influenced by the albums Pass recorded with jazz singers of the calibre of Ella Fitzgerald and possibly also the Brazilian album ‘Tudo Bem!’ that Pass recorded with percussionist Paulinho da Costa among others. Further uplifting hues can be heard on the title track composition by pianist-singer Johnny Alf (a major influence on Tania Maria’s approach and well worth investigating the albums of) where voice and guitar combine to perfection. A classy set from a singer who has not received her full due outside Brazil. Hopefully this album will go some way to re-addressing the imbalance.

Tim Stenhouse