World & Latin

Brazilian Surprise

01 APR 13 JOHN C. BRUENING

Although a well established artist in her native Brazil for many years, vocalist Ithamara Koorax didn’t connect with American audiences until Serenade In Blue became available in the U.S. market on the Milestone label in 2000. Within a couple years after the release, she scored the number four spot in the Down Beat Readers Poll behind high-profile luminaries Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall and Dianne Reeves.

Recorded in 1997 and 1998, Serenade In Blue is filled with engaging pop jazz tunes drawn from sources all over North and South America and Europe. What holds it all together is Koorax’s rich vocal presence that spans three languages and a multitude of styles and shades.

Among the album’s generous selection of spirited and engaging tracks is the thumping and syncopated “Mas Que Nada,” which pipes Koorax’s voice through heavy reverb yet never detracts from its rich, brassy quality. In similar fashion, Koorax’s cover of the French pop classic, “Un Homme Et Une Femme” (“A Man and a Woman”), demonstrates her mastery of French and follows a retro-flavored backbeat that accentuates her sensuality

But Koorax is equally comfortable in slower, quieter territory. The arrangement of “Moon River” relies heavily on a lighter-than air harp accompaniment, while “The Shadow of Your Smile” positions her squarely within a shimmering organ and synthesizer combination, all of which is underscored by a persistent but tasteful backbeat.

While Koorax’s subsequent recordings enjoyed similar successes in the States, her Serenade In Blue will always be remembered as the pleasant surprise that introduced her jazz audiences north of the border.