NEW YORK (Billboard) - Bossa nova has been in Luciana
Souza's blood since she was a child growing up in Sao Paulo,
Brazil, in the early '60s as the daughter of two of its
innovators, Walter Santos and Tereza Sousa.
So, after six critically acclaimed albums where her
expansive, homegrown Brazilian musical vocabulary converged
with American jazz, the three-time Grammy Award-nominated Los
Angeles-based vocalist returns to the wellspring and explores
bossa nova from a different slant on "The New Bossa Nova,"
produced by her husband, jazz musician Larry Klein, and due
On her Verve debut, in addition to two original songs, she
re-envisions classic pop with the bossa groove, applying her
distinctively cool and romantic touch to tunes by Joni
Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Sting, Randy Newman, Elliot Smith,
Steely Dan and James Taylor, who joins her in a duo setting on
his "Never Die Young."
"These songs aren't from the Brazilian tradition, but they
have amazing melodies and are written by excellent
songwriters," Souza said. "We wanted to make them feel classic,
so we played them with the constancy of rhythm and sway to lift
the melody, reveal the poetry and color the nuances. Every song
sounds like it could have been written as a bossa nova." As a
prime example, she cites the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows,"
which she renders as a gentle prayer.
"The New Bossa Nova" marks the first time Souza has
enlisted a producer, and the sessions feature a full-fledged
jazz band: tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, guitarist Romero
Lubambo, pianist Edward Simon, bassist Scott Colley,
vibraphonist Matt Moran and drummer Antonio Sanchez. "Larry let
me concentrate on singing, and the band serves as a bridge,"
Souza said. "They're all from the jazz tradition, but they also
know Brazilian music."
Souza admits, though, that the improvising could be
construed as confining. "Romero doesn't solo, and Antonio
played the brushes for four days, but we all found so much
freedom within that limited scope. I wanted to find the essence
of each song and bring it to life within the bossa nova
And she has no doubt that the CD fits under the jazz
umbrella. "Look at the jazz pedigree of the players," Souza
said. "The producer is fully a jazz artist, and the singer has
a masters of jazz composition. So, it's jazz but so much more:
Brazilian, pop, smooth jazz, world. I always think of myself
onstage as a jazz artist because of the liberty it gives."
Souza was signed by Universal Jazz France after her
successful run at Sunnyside Records. Her first Grammy
nomination for best vocal jazz album came in 2003 for her
"Brazilian Duos" CD recorded in 2001.
Sunnyside didn't have international distribution in such
hotbed jazz countries as Japan and Germany, and Souza's
Universal deal will open her music to new markets. She plans a
full-fledged European tour in November, with dates in Germany,
Italy, Spain and England. Prior to that, Universal will feature
her in showcases in Madrid, Lisbon and Paris. And in between
the two overseas tours, she'll be playing dates stateside.