Sound and color
A Great Noise
Metro Blue Records
With A Great Noise, Brazil's Marisa Monte announces herself as queen of MPB, or Musica Popular Brasileira. The album, half live and half studio, is a condensation of a much more elaborate two-disc package from her home. It's not only proof positive of her arrival, but also that of a new generation of Brazilian talent, very much the children of founders like Gilberto Gil, Joao Gilberto, and Caetano Veloso.
Monte takes the basis of her nation's music--samba and bossa nova--and adds indigenous rhythms and accomplished jazz stylings to produce an album that is as attractive as it is inspired (with the possible exception of an ill-advised cover of George Harrison's "Give Me Love"). Singing for the most part in Portuguese, her voice can be as supple as heavy suede or as delicate as smoke from a stick of incense as she covers songs both old and new (the live half of the disc reprises songs from her previous three albums), bouncy ("Cerebro Electronico"), beautiful ("Panis et Cicenses," which has a lovely Enya-like chiming quality) and topical ("Segue o Seco," which is about a drought plaguing Brazil's Northeast). Americans have long assumed that we know everything worthwhile; A Great Noise is a painless musical step toward remedying that misapprehension.
Portraits in Blue
Arguably the first great composer of the 20th century, George Gershwin was also among the most influential. He succeeded in giving jaunty little songs a classical structure, and revolutionized the way in which jazz and other musical vernaculars were assimilated into popular songs. But his greatest single work, "Rhapsody in Blue," did not in itself start any trends in music. It was, and remains, sui generis. Although his role in the widening development of jazz was significant, his orchestral compositions would be categorized as classical. Marcus Roberts is a young, gifted pianist who fulfills the promise of producing a post-Louis Armstrong swing sound on a classical piece composed before Armstrong was well known. By playing many of Gershwin's chords with Eubie Blake's style of improvisation--slapping the keys energetically and with a canny imprecision that belies his genuine craft--Roberts imbues "Rhapsody in Blue" and "'I Got Rhythm' Variations" with a freshness that always makes a return to a classic so enjoyable.
--Arnold Wayne Jones
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