World & Latin

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Garden State Bossa

27 APR 09 JOHN C. BRUENING

A dapper New Jersey native from a dynastic Italian family assembles his well-connected henchmen to...record a Latin jazz record? Is this an episode of The Sopranos that took a wrong turn? Hardly. This is John Pizzarelli's Bossa Nova, a 2004 Telarc recording that grafts a Brazilian backbeat to the guitarist-crooner's traditional American jazz sensibilities.

The result is an album that honors the spirit of Brazil with a mix of jazz standards from both sides of the border and a few American pop tunes reset to a Latin beat. The results are as satisfying as they are surprising.

The set borrows frequently from the catalog of Antonio Carlos Jobim, with intriguing renditions of "One Note Samba," "Waters of March," "So Danco Samba," "Desifinado" and the inevitable "The Girl from Ipenema." Other highlights include a Brazilian-flavored rendition of Gershwin's "Fascinating Rhythm," as well as Pizzarelli's own "Francesca" and "Soares Samba." And to make things even more interesting, he puts a Latin spin on James Taylor's top-40 hit "Your Smiling Face." And yes, it works.

Pizzarelli and two of his usual sidekicks, pianist Ray Kennedy and bassist/brother Martin Pizzarelli, are versatile enough that they probably could have pulled this feat off on their own, but things only get better with the help of drummer Paulinho Braga, a longtime Jobim associate, and percussionist Jim Saporito. Additional flavor and texture are provided by pianist Cesar Camarga Mariano, saxophonist Harry Allen and vocalists Daniel Jobim (Antonio's grandson) and Chiara Civello.

Bossa Nova is, in Pizarelli's own words, "a true marriage of American and Brazilian music as well as American and Brazilian musicians."

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