A Powerhouse Debut!
Jazzinho, for those not familiar with the Portuguese language structure, is a hybrid word deriving from Jazz and the Portuguese suffix, “-inho,” which denotes small. sweet. The name well defines the European group Jazzinho, an ensemble that plays sweet, little jazz with a heavy influence of Brazilian rhythms. Actually, I personally like to think of Jazzinho the other way around: a Brazilian group with world-music influence.
The force behind Jazzinho is Lisbon native Guida de Palma. With a unique voice full of sensuality and strength, de Palma can soar in high notes just as easily as when she is singing Bossa Nova tunes. At times she will make you think you are listening to Flora Purim or even the soul sounds of The Emotions. Nevertheless, she claims as her major influences names such as Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Joyce, Chico Buarque, Marcos Valle, Gilberto Gil, Elis Regina, Azymuth and Ed Motta. Of course she does not leave behind talents from her native Portugal: Mariza and Afonso and Kyao. She says she is into many styles and does not limit herself to a very narrow genre. That, in essence, in Jazzinho, a bouncy and captivating release featuring de Palma’s awesome vocals and swing.
The band backing up de Palma’s fine vocals includes her song collaborators Christian Franck (guitar), Michele Chiavarini (bass, drums, percussion, guitar, keyboards), Angilley (keyboards, accordion) as well as more than a dozen guest artists playing flutes, saxes, trombone, trumpet, flugelhorn. De Palma sings in Portuguese and English, and at times she masterfully switches back and forth between the two languages without creating any sharp corners. To the listener, it is all music, danceable music, where language is no barrier whatsoever. Of course, if you are intrigued by what she is singing, you can take out the liner notes booklet and follow the lyrics.
With a strong opener such as “Yambou,” the fast baião rhythm with tons of jazz influence is very catchy. De Palma does some remarkable duets with Angilley’s accordion solos in a dazzling display of vocal ability. The second track, “Sim ou Não,” gives you plenty to rave about with sounds very reminiscent of the legendary Trio Mocotó. The same track appears as a bonus in a Sleepwalker remix. The remix maintains the beat but features a whole new acoustic ensemble with the accompaniment of Masato Nakamura (flute), Tomokazu Sugimoto (bass), Noboaki Fujii (drums) and Hajime Yoshizawa (piano). Yoshizawa’s and Nakamura’s astonishing solos are out of this world. In more mellow tunes, such as “Moody Maria” and “Constelação,” the energy in Jazzinho is always present with its vocals and tight ensemble arrangements. The Bossa Nova-influenced numbers “Velejou” and “Malmequer” are a joy to hear, too. In particular, the vocal harmonies created in “Malmequer” are performed admirably. “Camponesa” is yet another interesting number. Its Portuguese and Middle Eastern influences are clearly evident in the lyrics, instrumentation and vocal accompaniment used. Ali Slimani’s derbuka solos and vocals set the song apart. Finally, closing the album with Menescal and Bôscoli’s classic “Telefone” is a magnificent jam session for musicians and vocalist alike. De Palma’s scat singing in the middle of this song is out of this world.
Jazzinho might be small in the name only, but the sound in the album is great Brazilian music. This is a group to watch for in coming years. If they maintain their strength with similar arrangements and vocal work as in this release, you can be sure they will leave the London dance floors and reach the whole world with their sound.
Read more about and hear samples of this album here.
Ecco.Chamber EC3742 (2003)
All songs by Guida de Palma & Michele Chiavarini, except where noted.
- Yambou (Guida de Palma – Neil Angilley)
- Sim ou Não (Guida de Palma – Christian Franck)
- Moody Maria
- Camponesa (Guida de Palma – Christian Franck)
- Telefone (Roberto Menescal – Ronaldo Bôscoli)
- Sim ou Não (Guida de Palma – Christian Franck) [Sleepwalker Remix]