Amália Baraona MENESCANTANDO
(Numérica- Num 1240. CD Review by Alison Bentley)
‘…if we dream about our wishes, they become true,’ wrote Brazilian composer Roberto Menescal to singer Amália Baraona this year; she’d asked him for help with her plan to record some of his songs. Menescal was there at the beginning of Bossa Nova and has written over 400 songs. Amália grew up in Brazil in the 70s, listening to him and her many other Bossa Nova heroes. She’s now based in Croatia, and this beautiful homage to Menescal features a fine international band- Menescal himself even guests on two tracks.
Many of the songs are bright and blithe; comparisons with Jobim are inevitable, and Novas Bossas has shades of his Meditation. Italian pianist Bruno Montrone has contributed the thoughtful arrangements, here featuring Croatian multi-instrumentalist Dinko Stipanicev’s sweet vibrato on clarinet, the tune framed by carefully-arranged phrases. The Pentasamba choir enhances Amália’s gamine yet rhythmically complex singing in perfect unison.
O Barquinho is perhaps Menescal’s most famous song, and the pulse imitates the sound of Menescal’s attempts to get a broken fishing boat working again- Stipanicev’s rhythmic guitar is superb. Amália sings with a beguiling mixture of insouciance and precision. She sounds a little like the newer wave of Brazilian singers, Joyce or Bebel Gilberto, but sings like herself. In Brasil Precisa Balançar, she uses the Portuguese language like a percussion instrument; the sounds fit so naturally with the Bossa rhythms, whilst sparking against the beat. Italian Dario Di Lecce’s perfectly judged bass supports Fabio Delle Foglie’s excellent drumming- everyone puts the rhythm first. Menescal’s chord sequences are uplifting all by themselves, and the strong melodies hold everything together.
Feliz Ano Novo-Iemanjá da Silva, in 6/8, modulates upwards breathtakingly in the bridge, a fusion of bebop chords with Latin grooves. Montrone plays sensitive fills and a spine-tingling piano solo, with hints of bebop showing through. Ah Se Eu Pudesse (‘Oh, if only I could… find our little boat and sail away…’ ) is about the lost love between the late singer Nara Leão and lyricist Ronaldo Bôscoli. The chords reflect this; like Jobim’s Corcovado, they rarely seem to settle into one key. The song Nara is a Menescal/Joyce tribute to Leão, and it’s the most affecting song on the album; it’s a slow bossa, with Amália’s airy vocals drifting down the dramatic octave leaps of the melody. There’s some subliminal electronic treatment on the vocals, enough to enhance their dreamy, feathery quality. Menescal’s lovely spacious guitar solo tumbles the notes together like the words.
These rarely heard songs feel as if they belong together. The musicians sound as if they trust each other: they play with a kind of musical and emotional alertness. Roberto Menescal: ‘Amália is one of the good surprises that life has brought to me…’