The Freelance Mentalists.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
 
Matt Cibula's All-Star Obscure-Ass Records You Really Need to Hear #39

Joyce, Astronauta: Songs of Elis (Blue Jackel), 1998

Joyce is the jam. She's been around the music business for four decades, which is not really all that long in Brazil but seems like forever here. She's also still hot; Cris Aflalo, a hip young Paulista whose debut album is rocking my 2004, LOVES Joyce, and so do a lot of her friends. Plus, Joyce is still really pretty hot, at least from these camera angles that make her look like Teri Hatcher's older sister.

Astronauta is a tribute record to the legendary Elis Regina, a singer of grace and crystalline beauty who died too soon. These songs are done up Braz-jazz style, lots of bossa touches, rolling piano solos over skittish guitar chords and tumbling drum patterns that cannot be replicated in the U.S.; the songs are mostly covers of stuff Elis sang, by superstars like Vinicius de Moraes and Edu Lobo and Milton Nascimento and Gilberto Gil and A.C. Jobim, except for the first track and the last, both co-written by Joyce her damn self.

This music cooks like a sweaty guy at a family barbecue. The band isn't quite exactly the Banda Maluca lineup from this year's Just a Little Bit Crazy record, but close with the nucleus of drum genius Tutty Moreno & guitarist Rudolfo Stroeter; there are also important guest shots by Mulgrew Miller and Renee Rosnes. They can pick their way through the intricacy of Gil's "Oriente," rock a samba beat on "Menino Das Laranjas," or do it up slow-jamz-way on "Essa Mulher." Plus, the album concludes with the song I consider the most perfect thing ever written: Jobim & de Moraes' "Waters of March," here an English-language duet with Joyce and Dori Caymmi, and sublime enough to be my third-favorite version ever, which is high praise if you know how many damned versions there are of this song.

Joyce is a singer, and a great writer ("Samba Pra Elis" is a sweet opening thing), but she is first and foremost a bandleader. Her guitar work is precision itself, interweaving with the two- and three- and five-part band, she drives everyone on. And come on, did I mention that Tutty Moreno is the drummer? Have you ever HEARD Tutty Moreno? Dude played drums on Gil's "Aquele Abraco," okay? END OF STORY.

This album is full of heart and love, it hits all the pleasure centers, and it's smart and funky and Brazilian. Oh, and here's the best part: I bought it for one dollar in the bargain bin at The Exclusive Co. DAMN I'M A BADASS.
 
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