Visiting the Great Composers
On Paisagem, her second album as a vocalist, the brave Cristina Braga decided to take the hard road. She chose to perform legendary Brazilian standards that already have been on the repertoire of many of the country’s greatest performers for ages. Cristina explains in the official cd-release: “Olivia (Hime), who kindly encouraged my singing, is the godmother of Paisagem. The track list was decided during an informal conversation over dinner in which we were discussing the songs that would become classics in the next hundred years.”
As on her previous album, Cristina Braga is featured as a vocalist. After a successful recording and performing career as a harpist in classical music, Cristina thought it was time for something else. Driven by the ambition to enter the world of popular music she marked her debut as vocalist with the album Cortejo in 2006. On that album Cristina wrote almost all the songs herself (with Ricardo Medeiros), while now, on Paisagem, the music is composed and written by some of Brazil’s greatest composers. After all the established renditions of these compositions, it’s hard to come up with something original in the performance. But Cristina succeeded. With the help of cellist Eugene Friesen the music gets some interesting fresh impulses.
Like Cristina Braga, Eugene Friesen has a history in classical music and an interest in popular music. As a teacher at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, he encourages his students to do their own thing in music. It’s what he did, too, during his long participation with the Paul Winter Consort (since 1978). This band from soprano saxophonist Paul Winter performs music that houses elements from jazz, classical and world music. If you specify world music by Brazilian music, then these three elements can also be found on Paisagem. The arrangements of the songs show surprising originality. Although, surprising with these masterful musicians you shouldn’t expect anything else. The basic instrumentation (cello, harp and bassist Ricardo Medeiros) gives the music a somewhat classical touch, underlining the immortality of the compositions.
The album opens quietly with Cristina’s vocals and the acoustic bass of Ricardo Medeiros performing “Valsa Brasileira.” The cello of Eugene joins in to play around the vocals. On “Triste,” pianist André Mehmari enters the scene, playing in a nice bossa nova tradition. After a delightful pizzicato solo on the cello, Eugene Friesen surprisingly sings a verse in English. Continuing in the same sentiment, also “Inútil Paisagem” shows that Cristina’s voice feels most comfortable in quiet low tempo compositions. A drum supplies the song with a gentle march-rhythm while pianist André Mehmari is featured with a light piano solo. “Disparada” is a bit more up-tempo and at moments shows the vulnerability of Cristina Braga’s gentle voice. It’s on “Retrato em Branco e Preto” that the two instrumentalists show how beautiful they sound together. “Pedaço de Mim” features a breath-taking solo by Eugene Friesen. Chico Buarque compositions clearly invite musicians to improvise on the sentiment given by the composer. Eugene Friesen shows it in a haunting way during the surprising ending of the song as if he’s trying to break out of the web Cristina spins on her harp. “Eu Te Amo” gets an instrumental rendition, although Eugene Friesen hums along in a Jobim-ish way. It’s a joy to hear the cello playing the melody lines surrounded by a pallet of colors that is painted by the harp.
The two musicians demonstrate the chosen songs are indeed immortal and easily invite to very personal renditions. Among the guest musicians we also hear drummer Joca Moraes, percussionist Marcos Zama, David Chew (cello) and Ricardo Amado (violin). Francis Hime plays piano on “Último Canto” and “Atrás da Porta.” Two bonus tracks close the album. The very jazzy ballad “Palma da Mão” and “Cove,” leaving us at moments with a beautiful album loaded with gems from Brazil’s rich musical tradition.
Cristina Braga & Eugene Friesen
Biscoito Fino BF842 (2008)
- Valsa Brasileira (Edu Lobo – Chico Buarque)
- Triste (Tom Jobim)
- Inútil Paisagem (Tom Jobim – Aloysio De Oliveira – Ray Gilbert)
- Disparada (Geraldo Vandré – Theo De Barros)
- Sabiá (Tom Jobim – Chico Buarque – Ray Gilbert)
- Retrato em Branco e Preto (Tom Jobim – Chico Buarque)
- Pedaço De Mim (Chico Buarque)
- Valsinha (Tom Jobim – Vinícius de Moraes)
- Eu Te Amo (Chico Buarque)
- Último Canto (Francis Hime – Ruy Guerra)
- Atrás Da Porta (Francis Hime – Chico Buarque)
- Modinha (Tom Jobim – Vinícius de Moraes)
- Bonita (Tom Jobim – Ray Gilbert)
- Palma da Mão (Cristina Braga – Ricardo Medeiros)
- Cove (Cristina Braga – Eugene Friesen)