A feel-good blend of samba and soul, Clareia is the perfect album to put on with your morning coffee.
You can tell from the first few notes of Sabrina Malheiros’ Clareia that it was made for the sunshine. Rich keyboard harmonies and sweet flute notes herald a feel-good blend of bossa nova and retro R&B that sounds like the beginning of a promising morning, and Malheiros delivers the grooves over the course of 11 songs to sway along to whether you’re beachside in Rio de Janeiro or home and steeling yourself for another average day.
Music is in Malheiros’ blood. The daughter of jazz guitarist Alex Malheiros, a founding member of popular trio Azymuth, she spent her childhood studying music classically and sitting in on recording sessions with renowned Brazilian musicians who were often also family friends. On Clareia, her comfort with her chosen profession is obvious; her voice is steady and soothing. Her father’s bass adds a seasoned funk to the mix, a big part of what gives the music enough texture to be more than smooth jazz.
Sabrina Malheiros is compared at times to bossa chanteuses like Astrud Gilberto and Elis Regina, and understandably so. The music of Clareia, though, evokes the hits of 1970s soul stars. Opening track "Celebrar" has hints of Brazilian funk legend Tim Maia, though those are more due to bass and keys than Malheiros’ relaxed vocals; "Sol, Céu E Mar" could just as easily be by Bill Withers or Al Green.
When faster samba beats kick in, the music tends to sound like good Sérgio Mendes cuts, replete with catchy hooks and simple structure. Sometimes this works well -- the title song still has enough movement to be interesting -- but it also makes for some of the weaker tracks over the course of the album, like the predictable "Sandorê". With that said, even the filler tracks are, if nothing else, very pleasant, and a little background noise never hurt anybody.
There’s no question that the name of the album is fitting. Alluding to clarity, it sets the tone for a record that truly lets the light in. Each instrument is clean and polished, and the musicians backing Malheiros are tremendously experienced, able to back up this member of the Malheiros musical dynasty (her grandfather played with the aforementioned Sérgio Mendes, adding yet another layer to her considerable pedigree).
Bossa nova as a style will always have its critics, and it’s true that it is rare to find music in the genre that goes outside the box. Clareia stays in an upbeat comfort zone, but Malheiros’ original creative spark is evident in her vocal harmonies and the fresh instrumentation. The album feels sincere, nothing canned or contrived for the sake of easy sales, and that’s something that you just can’t fake.
In the end, Sabrina Malheiros has put together the perfect album to put on with your morning coffee, a thoroughly enjoyable collection of songs. Clareia is heartfelt fun, and if you’re craving bossa nova, you can’t go wrong with a strong dose of it.