Sensorial – Portraits in Bossa and Jazz
Internationally acclaimed vocalist Mafalda Minnozzi presents Sensorial – Portraits in Bossa & Jazz. Under the musical direction of guitarist Paul Ricci and with the help of heavyweights like pianist Art Hirahara, bassists Essiet Okon Essiet and Harvie S, drummer Victor Jones and percussionists Will Calhoun and Rogério Boccato, Sensorial revisits and reimagines the Brazilian songbook, intersecting with NYC jazz. Pianist Hirahara just released his fifth album as a leader, Balance Point, in May and with this appearance can count over 50 albums to his credit. Both bassists and percussionists are also highly in-demand sidemen. This is a top shelf combo.
With its track selection inspired by the aesthetics of Gil Evans, João Gilberto and Roberto Murolo, the recording not only showcases Mafalda Minnozzi’s unmistakable vocal technique but presents a collection of emotionally charged arrangements drawn from her multicultural career in South America, Italy and New York City. Known for her explosively energetic live performances, this recording aims to deliver that same fiery appeal – with the accompaniment of live video performances of each track. We concede that aurally it comes across as a more animated bossa, but still as a restrained, highly finessed and nuanced outing rather than an explosive one, but the videos take it to a different level.
As expected with “Bossa” in the title, Antonio Carlos Jobim is well represented with seven tracks including his oft-covered “Dindi,” “Desafinado,’ and “Triste.” Yet the project brings deserved recognition to some Brazilian composers less present in the jazz world. Also, given that the Jobim tracks lean toward his work with Joao Gilberto – it’s no surprise that musical director Paul Ricci has lent his talents to the works of singers Astrud and Bebel Gilberto – wife and daughter of João.
To be fair, from the opening of Jobim’s “A Felicidade” it is clear that this is not your typical relaxed, dreamy Bossa nova project as the band brings the spontaneity and interplay of a jazz quintet with Mafalda as its leading horn. Another standout is “Vivo Sonhando” with a hypnotic beat from Victor Jones and a dreamlike guitar backdrop that leaves Mafalda and pianist Art Hirahara improvising and exploring the timeless melody with unique colors and jazzy possibilities.
Chico Buarque’s majestic “Morro Dois Irmaos“ captures the composer’s poetry in a mystical ensemble dialogue that melds the jazz element into a song rarely exported beyond the Brazilian border in an arrangement that exploits Mafalda’s gift for exuberant flight in the heat of the final moments.
“Samba da Benção,” with its guest percussionist Will Calhoun has Mafalda accents the mesmerizing African influenced pulse of his udu drum to by joining it in a musical dance with pianist Hirahara. “Once I Loved” is one of the two tracks on the album sung in English. Mafalda’s vocal captures the fragility and innocence of the lyrics and sets the tone for the band’s introspective mood. Essiet Okon Essiet’s atypical funky approach to the bass with Rogério Boccato’s tamborim propels the spirited melodic solos by Hirahara and Ricci. Drummer Victor Jones lifts the energy in the tune’s determined closing statement.
The album changes mood with a Getz/Gilberto classic and perhaps one of Jobim’s most famous tunes, “Chega de Saudade” that Mafalda interprets joyfully. Harvie S steps out for a masterful solo as the interplay and suspense of what will happen next becomes the spark for Mafalda’s creative scat singing that is not only melodic but also percussive. More scat appears when
Mafalda and band address Samba in both Toninho Horta’s “Mocidade” and in the standout “Jogral.’ These naturally showcase percussionist Rogério Boccato while the band pushes Mafalda’s spirited scatting to a wild ending. Hirahara’s piano and Ricci’s guitar imbue the former.
Completing the list of great Brazilian composers, Mafalda includes an Italian version of “Un Altro Addio” by Toquinho/Vinicius de Moraes and “É Preciso Perdoar” by Alcevando Luz/Carlos Coqueijo which is kicked off with John Coltrane’s “Lonnie’s Lament” as both themes seem to be woven from the same soulful fabric of jazz and Afro Brazilian colors. This rich, sensual, relaxing music is a treat for the senses, made that much more appealing by the videos that accompany the selections – as they say, “for your viewing and listening pleasure.”
- Jim Hynes
More about Mafalda Minnozzi
Born in Pavia, Italy, Mafalda Minnozzi is a charismatic singer and composer who over her career has become an audience favorite. Her trajectory from clubs and TV in Rome to Rio De Janeiro launched an over 20 year career in Brazil that includes prestigious collaborations with Milton Nascimento, Leny Andrade, André Mehmari, Guinga, Hugo Fattoruso, Filó Machado, Martinho da Vila, Toquinho and so many others. Her resume includes TV shows, 15 CDs, 2 DVDs, film and TV soundtracks as both singer and composer, S. American jazz festivals and shows throughout Brazil in its most prestigious venues. At the same time, she has performed in major Italian jazz festivals often with her “eMPathia Jazz Duo” project with Paul Ricci, and has recently brought her NY band on an Italian jazz festival tour previewing the release of Sensorial, garnering her acclaim in JAZZIT magazine’s top 10 vocalists two years in a row in 2018 and 2019.