Once in a while, an album takes an instant "permanent" presence in your mind. You just can't get enough of it. You carry it with you anywhere you go. Universo ao Meu Redor is my album du jour. It's been 10 years since I was last so impressed with a new Marisa Monte album. Memórias, Crônicas e Declarações de Amor(2000) and Tribalistas (2002) left me a bit cold. Now, 10 years after A Great Noise, Marisa Monte comes back with a vengeance and releases two albums simultaneously: one more pop oriented (Infinito Particular) and the other a collection of gorgeous sambas.
Universo ao Meu Redor focuses on Marisa Monte's long-time involvement with samba and its roots. She has worked closely with sambistas from Portela and even produced their 2000 Tudo Azul CD. From there and knowing of the rich oral tradition of other sambistas, Marisa began the arduous task of researching and learning more about those sambas. It helps she lives and breathes samba. She spent countless hours talking with Monarco, Dona Yvonne Lara, Paulinho da Viola and her own father among several others. This album is the result of those conversations. Mixing the old with the new, she and Mario Caldato produced a magnificent repertoire that includes sambas from 1944 to 2005. Gems written by Jayme Silva and Casemiro Vieira are beautifully performed side by side with more recent names, including Adriana Calcanhotto, Paulinho da Viola and Marisa Monte herself. With a group of musicians that include Paulinho da Viola (acoustic guitar and cavaquinho), Marçal and Marcelo Costa (percussion), Jaques Morelenbaum (cello), Dadi (acoustic guitar), Carlos Malta (flutes) and another dozen impressive names, Universo ao Meu Redor is destined to become a classic in Marisa's discography and Brazilian music. The intimate feeling of all arrangements coupled with Marisa's ethereal vocals take listeners immediately into her samba universe. The opener title track will enthrall you right at the start. Marisa on the ukulele and Paulinho on the acoustic guitar and cavaquinho are amazing. The 1950 "Meu Canário" (Jayme Silva) is another great piece full of swing and percussion, and Eliezer Rodrigues's tuba accompaniment is unforgettable. The instrumentation in the album is also another feature that will captivate you. Every instrument perfectly fits the arrangements and settings for each track. And backing up everything, great samba percussion underlies everything.
After nearly three quarters of an hour with samba after samba, Marisa Monte picked the 1945 waltz "Pétalas Esquecidas," by Dona Yvonne Lara and Teresa Batista, to close the album with a golden key. How fitting to to sing that song in an album that includes some forgotten gems. One last detail: guitar lovers will appreciate the chords along with all lyrics in the liner notes. Nice touch for a great album.