He reeks of Gallic poise and Roman passione, but at his best Joe Barbieri takes Italy’s obsession with bossa nova and affords it the unplugged treatment. Relative to his countrymen, he’s got more in common with Paolo Conti than dancefloor-friendly namesake Nicola, even if the immaculately turned out production and arrangements too often flutter off into that great elevator in the sky. With accompaniment restricted to bass, guitar, piano,and occasional brass, accordion, strings and percussion, the focus is almost wholly on Barbieri’ café-crème, mid-mediterranean croon. And on the likes of “Microcosmo”, he’s a match for any carioca, squeezing the more demanding, precise articulations of Italian into the kind of phrasing usually reserved for Brazilian Portuguese, with seemingly as about as much effort as it takes to fall asleep – Antonio Carluccio style – underneath the nearest tree. Check out the sleeve—in this case, you really can judge the book by its cover.