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Celso Fonseca CDs, Bio & Links

Rive Gauche Rio

Rive Gauche Rio

While songwriter Celso Fonseca hasn't gotten the same kind of recognition as modern day bossa nova classicist Rosa Passos or electro-modernist Bebel Gilberto, he's truly a bossa nova talent worthy of much wider recognition. His last album, Natural, was a potpourri of tasteful sounds anchored by his guitar playing as well as samba percussion. On Rive Gauche Rio, Fonseca ups the ante with a sound that is more seamless and wholly unified. The heartbeat of the 12 songs here is still Brazilian and the acoustic guitar is ever present, but he gracefully broadens his palette with tasteful touches of flute, multi-tracked vocals, upright bass, electric piano and hand percussion. His voice is as warm and sensual as ever, and equally at home in his native Portuguese or English – he does a lovely samba version of Damien Rice's "Delicate." Opener "O Rio Para Tras" is a stunning example of this album's panoramic elegance; it also emphatically announces the arrival of one of the best Brazilian albums of 2005. –-Tad Hendrickson

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Celso Fonseca & Ronaldo Bastos



After a successful career in Brazil reaching back two decades, Celso (pronounced "SELL-so") Fonseca is finally making his solo debut in the United States. Fonseca has produced, written for, arranged, or played on albums by such stars as Baden Powell and Gilberto Gil, as well as younger artists like Bebel Gilberto and Virginia Rodrigues. Natural, however, makes it abundantly clear that he is just as adept in the lead role as singer and star. Here he chooses to create modern but elegant bossa novas that sound hip but, unlike Bebel Gilberto’s electronic music-oriented Tanto Tempo, are mostly done using traditional acoustic instruments. With an emphasis on voice (he sounds like a young Caetano Veloso) and acoustic guitar, Fonseca has a strong collection of nine originals rounded out with Jobim and Powell covers. Aptly proving how skilled Fonseca is with his art, "The Night We Called It A Day" and "Slow Motion Bossa Nova" are rare examples of English language bossa novas that gracefully capture the music’s essence. --Tad Hendrickson  More On Celso Fonseca's Natural Album

Juventude / Slow Motion Bossa Nova

Juventud: Slow Motion Bossa Nova

Celso Fonseca is another perfect example of the immense number of under-rated artists from the superb realm of Brazilian Music. This album is beautifully and finely arranged with several Jazz and Samba highlights. Inteligent and fresh compositions, make this album easy to listen to and to fall for. Just check his guests in this album and you decide for yourself: Armando Marcal, Arturo Maia, Daniel Jobim, Jacques Morelenbaum, Joâo Donato, Jota Moraes, Márcio Montarroyos, Marcos Suzano, Robertinho Silva, etc. etc. If you are into Bossa Nova, Brazilian Jazz and/or Brazilian Music in general, this is a must-have, you'll love it. --an reviewer


More On Natural (Six Degrees Records notes)

What are they putting in the water down there in Brazil? (And can we get some up here?) For decades Brazil has been exporting some of the world's great singer/songwriters: Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, Milton Nascimento… The list goes on, and the flood of amazing talent from Brazil shows no signs of slowing down. Celso Fonseca is part of the current generation of Brazilian songwriters, and with Natural, his stunning international solo debut, he shows himself ready to join the ranks of his countrymen Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, and Bebel Gilberto. That's pretty heady company, but Celso (pronounced SELL-so) has already collaborated with all three of these world famous musicians; and as a guitarist, an arranger, and producer, he's worked with most of Brazil's top artists, as well as Americans Carlos Santana, Charles Lloyd, and others.

Celso is no musical newcomer: he has four critically acclaimed solo albums in his homeland, and a Latin Grammy nomination for 2002's duo album with Ronaldo Bastos called Juventude. He might have been Brazil's best-kept musical secret, but not so anymore. Natural lets that secret out - in a big way. Celso's softly sensual vocals are often reminscent of Caetano Veloso, and his guitar playing hints at jazz and chamber music, but with a lyrical elegance that is pure Brazil. The album is purposefully stripped down to a small ensemble, but if you're thinking that a small group means a small range of sounds, Celso will quickly disabuse you of that notion. His all-star cast includes master percussionist Robertinho Silva (on loan from Milton Nascimento's band), pianist Daniel Jobim (yes, he's Antonio Carlos's grandson), and Jorge Helder (from Chico Buarque's group) on acoustic bass. Celso also makes subtle but effective use of taped sounds from his hometown of Rio de Janeiro.

The first three tracks on Natural, all Celso originals, are as compelling an introduction as any singer has had since Cesaria Evora made her international debut. "Bom Sinal," which actually gave savvy listeners a preview of what was to come when it was released on Ziriguiboom's The Now Sound of Brazil, is breezy bossa-pop, with filigreed keyboards, guitar, and metallic percussion. The song is light-hearted but big-bottomed: it's hard to believe that Jorge Helder is actually playing an acoustic bass. "Sem Resposta" is just Celso, his silken vocals and fingerpicked guitar creating a lovely, intimate song that shows just how accurate his instincts are: the noted arranger leaves this one alone but he pulls out the stops on the next track. "A Origem da Felicidade" begins with echoes of Brazil's samba percussion; then Robertinho settles into a steady, gentle groove, over which float Celso's vocals and guitar. The song evokes soft winds and languorous tropical nights.

Not surprisingly, Natural is deeply rooted in bossa nova. His song "Slow Motion Bossa Nova" is sung in English, but the title says it all: this is good old-fashioned bossa (Celso even invokes the name of Antonio Carlos Jobim). In fact, Celso offers two classics alongside his original songs. "She's a Carioca" is a Jobim song that features guest vocalist Cibelle, who is known for her work with Ziriguiboom artist Suba, and is sung in both English and Portuguese. "Consolacăo" is one of the album's two instrumentals, a beautiful work by the great Brazilian guitarist/composer Baden Powell.

Celso also uses jazz to good effect on Natural. His take on the standard "The Night We Called It A Day" draws on the sounds of late 1950s "cool" jazz, with what is essentially a lounge-jazz piano trio accompanying Celso's guitar and English vocals. And the sultry "Febre," with its restrained trumpet and piano intro, is a slow jazz ballad. Celso's "Teu Sorriso" is a beautifully composed and produced song that begins and ends with the Brazilian berimbau, an African-derived instrument. Celso adds drums and his guitar, uses some unexpected harmonic twists and subtle tape effects, and sets it all to a gently rocking rhythm. The whole arrangement shows impeccable taste, a keen sense of what's going on elsewhere in the musical world, and a quintessentially Brazilian approach.

Natural could easily become one of those records that critics and discriminating fans smugly keep by the stereo to show guests how superior their taste in music is. Celso Fonseca, riding the crest of yet another wave of extraordinary Brazilian talent, seems poised for a real breakout. Natural is just too easy to like. --Six Degrees Records

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