A Heartfelt Tribute
January 19, 1982, is a day many will always remember in Brazil. On that day, Elis Regina, arguably the greatest performer ever in Brazilian music, passed away. For years after her death, on that date, TV stations, newspapers, and radio shows continued to pay tribute to that unforgettable voice and tempestuous personality. Affectionately known as “Furacão” (Hurricane) or “Pimentinha” (Little Pepper), Elis Regina established herself singing some of the best in the Brazilian songbook at the same time that she was introducing new names to her audiences. Milton Nascimento, Belchior and João Bosco and Aldir Blanc were just some of those names. Her 1979 release on WEA, Elis, Essa Mulher, was named after the song “Essa Mulher,” which was composed by a strong force in Brazilian contemporary music. Up to that point, the composer of “Essa Mulher” had somewhat remained hidden from the general public. Her name was Joyce, and Elis Regina was the first major Brazilian star to record one of her songs. Now, almost 20 years later, Joyce thanks Elis with Astronauta – Songs of Elis.
Astronauta – Songs of Elis presents a brief overview of Elis Regina’s career. With Joyce’s incomparable voice, those songs gained new life. Joyce did not attempt to copy Elis Regina’s style. Instead, Joyce re-created the songs with flair and class. The emphasis on the songs is enhanced by the exceptional accompaniment Joyce chose. Besides her own guitar playing, Joyce is sided with top-notch jazz musicians: Joe Lovano’s sax tenor, Rodolfo Stroeter’s bass, Tutti Moreno’s drums and Guello’s percussion. At times, Mulgrew Miller or Renee Rosnes adds piano accompaniment and a strong jazz influence to these Brazilian classic songs. Two other superb musicians complete this master ensemble: Dori Caymmi and Romero Lubambo. Dori Caymmi, in addition to playing acoustic guitar, also contributes with vocals. His participation singing a duet with Joyce in the closing track, “Waters of March” (by Antonio Carlos Jobim), is particularly amazing. In the opening verses, Dori Caymmi’s voice is strikingly reminiscent of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s own characteristic voice.
Astronauta opens with Joyce’s own composition “Samba Pra Elis.” That song serves as an overture and dedication to this masterfully crafted CD. The song talks about what Elis Regina meant to Brazilian music and Brazilians in general. She was a light, she was a volcano, she was a woman in love with music. Joyce’s simple lyrics paint a perfect picture of that woman who redefined Brazilian standards in singing. Joyce captures the essence of Elis Regina in song.
To isolate one particular song as better than the others would be an impossible task. Every note in Astronauta carries the weight of a lifetime. Joyce’s dedication to presenting these songs perfectly is evident in each track. Whether in the introspective performances of “Essa Mulher,” “O Cantador” and “Morro Velho” or the vibrant rediscovery in “Aquarela do Brasil” or “Folhas Secas,” Joyce is magnificent. The use of Milton Nascimento’s own “Vera Cruz” as an introduction to “Aquarela do Brasil” creates a musical circle that only a master performer such as Joyce could endeavor to create.
The title track, “Astronauta (Samba da Pergunta)” is yet another way of defining Elis Regina. She could fly high like a kite or a bird. She was the morning star in Brazilian music. She was the star that shone bright and left too early. Now, thanks to Joyce’s timely tribute, Elis Regina reappears and takes her place in our memory. A stellar performer, Joyce is enchanting and mesmerizing.
Astronauta – Songs of Elis
Blue Jackel BJAC 5029-2 (1998)
Total Time: 59’32”
- Samba Pra Elis (Joyce – Paulo César Pinheiro)
- Canto de Ossanha (Baden Powell – Vinícius de Moraes)
- Upa Neguinho (Edu Lobo – Gianfrancesco Guarnieri)
- Morro Velho (Mílton Nascimento)
- Aquarela do Brasil (Ary Barroso)
- O Cantador (Dori Caymmi – Nelson Motta) – w/ Dori Caymmi
- Astronauta (Samba Da Pergunta) (Pingarilho – Marcos Vasconcelos)
- Oriente (Gilberto Gil)
- Folhas Secas (Nelson Cavaquinho – Guilherme de Brito)
- Querelas do Brasil (Maurício Tapajós – Aldir Blanc)
- Menino das Laranjas (Theo de Barros)
- Essa Mulher (Joyce – Ana Terra)
- Na Batucada da Vida (Ary Barroso – Luiz Peixoto)
- Waters of March (Antônio Carlos Jobim) – w/ Dori Caymmi
A modified version of this review first appeared in Luna Kafé, January 1999.