If you don’t listen to a lot of Brazilian music, you’ll have to kind of re-adjust your ears for this one. They’re not all about the showing-off, the Brazilians; they are just as likely to appreciate subtlety and hush over flash and splash. At first listen, Carlos Barbosa-Lima’s guitar playing might seem like easy-listening music or “smooth jazz”. If this is as far as you want to go, that’s okay, I suppose, I won’t hold that against you.
But you’ll be missing a lot. You’ll miss the easy swing he puts into Alfredo Vianni’s “Cochichando”. You’ll never hear the classy and refined voice of Danny Garcia singing Ernesto Cordero’s “Entre Guitarra y Voz” over Barbosa-Lima’s whispery comping. And you’ll never get to appreciate Dudeka da Fonseca’s quietly mad samba percussion breakdown on “Samba de Orfeu”.
See, I love this music. It somehow seeped into my blood ever since Marcello, an exchange student to my high school, first hooked me up with a tape of his favorite tunes. Since then, I’ve come to learn about João Gilberto, about Caetano and Gil and Jorge, about Joyce and Maria Bethânia and Marina Lima, about how a little can mean a lot.
So I don’t panic when this nerdy-looking guitarist takes it easy heading into Jobim’s “One Note Samba”, because I know he’s going to take the thing and make it his own—which he does by coming in just a tiny bit early on a few notes, swinging it Charlie Christian-style and making it just a little sexy. And I don’t get all “WHERE IS THE NOIZE” during his reading of Hawaiian composer Byron Yasui’s “Romance”, because it’s okay to walk on the sweet side of the street when there’s talent and chops and heart underneath the slightly gloppy exterior.
In fact, we could all do with a bit more subtlety in our American lives. I’m not saying that this album is the answer to all that. But what I am saying is that I have a seduction planned in a couple of days,* and Carioca is right up there on the list. So count that as a yes vote.
*Relax, we’ve been married for 14 years.