Universo Ao Meu Redor
Since her father was a director of Portela, one of Rio's most prominent escolas de samba (samba schools -- the huge, wildly costumed gatherings of percussionists, instrumentalists, singers, and dancers that make the annual carnival so unforgettable), Brazil's most-famous export is obviously in Marisa Monte's very blood. Thus, it's surprising that she's only now gotten around to recording an album completely dedicated to the style, but happily, it's turned out to be worth the wait. She wraps her dulcet, spicy mezzo-soprano, with its clarinet-like timbre that sometimes recalls that of Gal Costa, around a well-chosen set of hip-swinging charmers, accompanied by traditional instruments like cavaquinho (a harp-like small guitar) and assorted drums and shakers long associated with the genre, plus tubas, woodwinds, strings, nostalgic Fender Rhodes organs, and, notably, the guitar of Paulinho da Viola. Songwriters of various periods are represented, including Jayme Silva from the fifties, Moraes Moreira from the 1960s, and for modern times, Carlinhos Brown and the singer herself. Hers is the kind of artistry that awes as it soothes; it draws no attention to itself yet every song flows into another like pearls on a string. Lushly sensual and suavely intimate, the lady could melt a heart of stone. --Christina Roden
This is Marisa Monte's first CD since 2002, and it's also the companion release to her samba-centered Universo Au Meu Redor recording. On this project, Monte reunites with her Tribalistas partners, Carlinhos Brown and Arnaldo Antunes, along with special guests including cellist Jaques Morelenbaum and pianist Joao Donato. The vibe is what you would expect from Monte: saudade-soaked lyrics with dreamy, layered synth and electric keyboards draped over Brazilian percussion and guitars. Having a baby has mellowed her out, as evidenced by the laid-back lilt on "A Prineira Pedra" and "Pra Ser Sincero" and the breezy backbeats of "Levante." "O Rio" was co-written by Seu Jorge, and the title track is what you're probably going to hear on your iPod. Clearly, there are a lot of Brazilian singers out there, but Monte's musical and emotional growth make her stand out. --Eugene Holley, Jr.
Marisa Monte has a beautiful,
versatile voice that can be tender and precise, or slinky and sensuous. Along
with her vocal talents, she is also an excellent songwriter.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1967, she grew up with two powerful influences
that would help shape her formidable musical abilities. Her father was on the
board of the Portela samba school, and on the weekends samba musicians often
jammed in the family's living room. Her mother loved bossa, jazz, and blues, and
Marisa herself avidly listened to pop from Brazil, the United States, and the
U.K. She began studying music seriously at 14, then decided she wanted to be an
opera singer and by 18 was studying bel canto in Italy.
But opera wasn't her true calling, and she returned home intent on
pursuing a musical path that came more naturally to her, one that would bring
together all the styles that she loved. She started performing in bars and small
clubs, building a following and attracting the attention of EMI-Odeon.
In 1989, when she recorded her debut album Marisa Monte,
the record company backed her with a prime-time TV special and heavy promotion.
The album deserved the push: it is a confident work that with
an audacious range that sweeps through
hard rock (from the Titãs), "South American Way" (a 1940 Carmen Miranda number),
songs by George Gershwin and Kurt Weill, a reggae version of "I Heard It Through
the Grapevine," and forró master Luiz
Gonzaga's old hit "O Xote das Meninas." A brilliant new vocalist had clearly
arrived, with an audacious repertoire.
Marisa Monte's Mais in 1991 was similarly ambitious. Produced by Arto Lindsay, it features Japanese keyboardist Ryuichi Sakamoto, American saxophonist John Zorn, northeastern guitar wizard Robertinho de Recife, and standout percussionists Naná Vasconcelos and Armando Marçal. The album is less eclectic than Marisa's debut effort, but more coherent in its approach. Mais ranges from folk-rock to choro to heavy samba (samba with hard rock), as Marisa interprets songs written mostly by herself and Titãs alumni Nando Reis and Arnaldo Antunes. Also included are Pixinguinha's venerable choro "Rosa," Cartola's samba "Ensaboa" (Soap It), and the Caetano Veloso ballad "De Noite Na Cama" (At Night in Bed). Mais cemented Monte's stardom; fans showered the stage with roses at her concerts and countless young woman sought to emulate her elegant style.
In 1994, she recorded Verde Anil Amarelo Cor de Rosa e
Carvão (released in the U.S. as Rose and Charcoal). It is a rich,
lyrical work that has more songs written by
Antunes, and Reis; the compositions and percussion of axé-music phenomenon
an old samba by Portela legends Jamelão and Bubu da Portela; the swinging Jorge
Benjor samba "Balança Pema"; and Lou Reed's "Pale Blue Eyes." U.S. avant-garde
musicians Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson also appear on the album, as do
Paulinho da Viola and the Velha Guarda da Portela (Old Guard of Portela).
Recorded in 1996 in Brazil, A Great Noise [Barulhinho Bom] features live recordings from shows in Rio and Recife that were augmented in the studio. There is an intriguing interpretation by Monte of an Octavio Paz poem, "Blanco" (White), her hit "Beija Eu" (written with Antunes and Lindsay), and four tunes by Carlinhos Brown: "Arrepio," "Magamalabares," "Maraçá," and "Segue o Seco." In addition, Marisa offers inspired covers of tropicalista Gilberto Gil's "Cérebro Eletrônico" (Electronic Brain), Gil and Veloso's "Panis et Circensis" (Bread and Circus), George Harrison's "Give Me Love," Brazilian pop-rocker Lulu Santos' "Tempos Modernos" (Modern Times), and samba-MPB legend Paulinho da Viola's "Dança da Solidão" (Solitude's Dance). It is an outstanding effort that showcases impressive musical range, and takes the legacy of the MPB generation into the future.
Samba, Bossa Nova And The Popular Music Of Brazil
(Temple University Press, 2nd edition, 1998).