Jennifer Scott & Brasileira defy expectations on Sonho Meu
Sonho Meu (Cellar Live)
I’ve got to admit that I have a deep and abiding lack of interest in Brazilian jazz, especially when it’s played by non-Brazilians. So I thought I’d start with Sonho Meu by judging its cover—which is wonderful. Local painter and jazz maven Eric Metcalfe is a musician himself, and his jungle-toned cover image manages to be both lushly tropical and stimulatingly abstract. No mean feat.
In fact, Metcalfe’s untitled graphic must have put me in such a good mood that I ended up liking long stretches of Sonho Meu, contrary to whatever expectations I might have had. It helps that the band here, anchored by singer and pianist Jennifer Scott’s husband, René Worst, on bass, is so stellar that it’s not worth singling out individual contributions; everyone plays brilliantly. And as the bandleader, Scott has chosen her material well: too many Braz-jazz efforts never escape comfortable mediocrity, but Scott operates on the assumption that diversity is as desirable as ease. The fierce intimacy evident on a voice-and-bass version of Egberto Gismonti’s “Loro” embodies the love that has carried Scott and Worst through some recent health scares; meanwhile, the singer’s vocal duet with percussionist Pepe Danza on “Romaria” draws on the lonesome tones of country music, albeit with a side of feijoada rather than chuckwagon beans.
There are moments here that come too close to the middle of the road for my left-field tastes, but on the whole Sonho Meu is carefully crafted, engagingly performed, and beautifully recorded. Given the calibre of the participants, I shouldn’t be surprised—but I am, and delightfully so.