Joyce Moreno and Kenny Werner Poesia
(Pirouet PIT3087. CD Review by Peter Jones)
Two outstanding jazz veterans of the Americas – one based in Rio, the other in New York – have come up with a simple idea: to record an album of ballads. Joyce Moreno and Kenny Werner have been friends since first meeting in 1989, and have worked together during that time on two of Joyce’s previous albums.
Poesia feels very different to the exuberance of Joyce’s last album Raiz, which was an exploration of her Brazilian musical roots. This is a collection of chamber pieces, and what work so beautifully and distinctively on it is the combination of styles – Moreno singing in the latin tradition of drama and melancholy, accompanied by Werner’s delicate, empathetic less-is-more piano.
Confusingly, Second Love Song, which they wrote together, is the opening track, and it’s one of the highlights of the album. Werner had originally penned the tune for a big band, but with Moreno’s newly-added lyrics, it sounds perfect and complete a deux.
Of course, working in a duo can also cruelly expose any vocal frailties, and here and there, for example on Jobim’s Olha Maria, Joyce sounds a little uncertain. But elsewhere it’s great to hear her take on such standards as Estate and Mad About The Boy. Werner’s piano on the former ripples and riffs, sometimes complementing and supporting the voice, sometimes providing an edgy counterpoint. He doesn’t ‘latinise’ the material, sticking instead to conventional jazz ballad stylings.
Caymmi’s Velho Piano – a new one on me – is a sweet and melodic delight; Pra Dizer Adeus (‘Just To Say Goodbye’) is a tear-jerker, darkened by Werner’s interpolated melody lines and bittersweet chords; Charlie Chaplin’s Smile (whose lyrics, by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, weren’t added until a full 18 years after the song appeared in Chaplin’s film Modern Times) is another excellent choice, perfectly in keeping with the overall mood, and the same goes for Bernstein’s Some Other Time.
Don’t expect innovation or even surprises from Poesia; it’s not that kind of album. But if you want a mellow, chilled-out listen for the early hours of the morning, this is it.