ROMANCE: A Collection of Latin Love Songs • Sylvia McNair (vocals); Instrumental Ensemble • IU MUSIC CD 2012-02 (47:32)
JOBIM Dindi. Boy from Ipanema. Corcovado. Insensatez. Água de beber. DOMÍNGUEZ Perfidia. VELÁZQUEZ Bésame mucho. BARROSO Faceira.Read more class="COMPOSER12"> PASCOAL Chorinho pra ele. FARRÉS Quizás, quizás, quizás. LARA Solamente una vez. BELTRÁN Sway
I suppose I’m the last person on Earth who knew that Sylvia McNair, the internationally famous soprano of Baroque, Classical, and occasionally bel canto music, has also sung cabaret and Broadway music, probably because these genres usually don’t interest me, but I’ll be darned if I’m not bowled over by her intimate and jazzy style on this disc. In fact, despite her success in cabaret music, even McNair was surprised at being asked to do this material. On the Indiana University website, she is quoted as saying, “I’m still pinching myself that the Latin American Music Center let a girl from Ohio, who doesn’t speak a word of Spanish or Portuguese and who has no jazz credentials, join this wonderful project. Every hour of performing and recording was a complete joy, and I am forever grateful that the Latin Americans in charge of this were so patient and kind!”
But here the record is, and it’s fabulous. In fact, it’s the biggest surprise of its kind I’ve encountered since Diana Ross’s live album of Billie Holiday standards, made after she had butchered Holiday’s style in the movie Lady Sings the Blues. There is absolutely no trace in McNair’s singing here of the Opera Diva, but much more of Astrud Gilberto than I’d ever have thought her capable of. In fact, she even manages to avoid the precious quality that so many singers—yes, even jazz singers—inject into this type of material when they try to sound romantic or seductive. (I refer to it as “bimbo breathiness.”) You could play this recording for virtually any aficionado of bossa nova jazz in a blindfold test and ask them who the singer was. I’ll lay you 10-to-1 odds that none of them would ever guess McNair.
Three older (pre-bossa nova) songs are included on the album, the early 1940s classics Perfidia (one of Glenn Miller’s biggest hits) and Bésame mucho, plus Augustín Lara’s Solamente una vez. McNair sings the intro to Perfidia and all of Bésame mucho in Spanish; in keeping with Gilberto’s tradition of singing the Brazilian samba-type songs in English, McNair does so here, though with occasional forays into Portuguese (e.g., Água de beber). For the uninitiated, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Corcovado is better known in this country by the title from Gene Lees’s lyrics, “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars.” Considering the fact that McNair has no jazz background, her relaxed scatting on Chorinho is surprisingly fluid.
Of course, the underlying core of this record is the brilliant playing of Jacobs School of Music Jazz Faculty members Tom Walsh (saxophone), Luke Gillespie (piano), and Jeremy Allen (double bass), as well as the young leaders of the center’s Latin American Popular Music Ensemble under the direction of Guido Sánchez-Portuguez. You simply can’t say enough about these superb musicians, and in a sense they, too, are flying under most of America’s Latin jazz radar. The disc comes in an exceptionally slim fold-over cardboard sleeve with a photo of McNair on the front and back and photos of the musicians inside, along with musician credits, but absolutely no liner notes. Who needs them? When you see the name of Jobim on five of the songs and the album also includes Perfidia and Bésame mucho, you pretty much know what you’re in for. If you prefer a download to your computer or iPod rather than a solid disc, you can also do so, but however you get it, this album is a winner.
I liked it, but ....October 12, 2013By Sebastiao Lacerda Sebastiao Lacerda (Rio de Janeiro, RJ)See All My Reviews"It wasn't exactly what I expected from Fanfare's review. Rhythm is not of the highest quality."Report Abuse