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Free Bossa

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Album Review

The artists formerly known as Nouvelle Cuisine have changed their name but not their attitude. For their fourth disc they continue their deconstruction of music — and in spite of the title, it's not all bossa nova, and not even all Brazilian. They can range from the classic samba of Dori Caymmi ("Quem Vem Pra Beira Do Mar") to hot jazz ("Tears"), soul (a delightful, naïve take on "Dock of the Bay") and straight improvisation ("Las Hormigas"). Using clarinet and vibes as lead instruments is a daring move in itself, and far from a standard combination, but Luca's eloquence and lyricism on clarinet makes it work beautifully, especially on a track like "Mulher Reneira," a Brazilian anthem reinvented in the fashion of '60s Ornette Coleman. But adventurous jazz is obviously as inspiring as their native sounds — "I Loves You Porgy" builds from an old Paul Bley arrangement for a gorgeous instrumental piece. One that doesn't work is "Bewitched" (aka "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered"), which never gels. Their own work is equally daring: "Free Bossa" is indeed free, vocal-free association on words beginning with F, while the lyrical inspiration for "Sair Do Ar" comes from Timothy Leary's "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out." They know their music, and can manipulate a hot mambo ("Decidete Mi Amor") into cooler, lighter territory while playing delightfully with the samba de roda "Sereia." The playing of the three band principals is impeccable (as you'd expect from people who've been playing together for over a decade), and when new vocalist Estela Cassilatti gets the chance to shine, she has wondrous pipes, as understated as Astrud Gilberto, but with a more playful sense of time and melody. Altogether divine.


Formed: 1987

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Nouvelle (former Nouvelle Cuisine) is a group that appeared in 1987 and is dedicated to acoustic jazz renditions for American standards. The first album, Nouvelle Cuisine, was recorded in 1988, where the spots were turned for the revelation singer Carlos Fernando, visibly influenced by Mel Tormé. Slow Food (1991) is a turning point, where Brazilian music is the pièce de resistance, with "Luzes" (written specially for the group by Caetano Veloso) and participation by Gal Costa. In 1995, Flávio Mancini...
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Free Bossa, Nouvelle
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