It's samba and it's Seu Jorge, but not as we know it.
Michael Quinn 2008-06-27
The saviour of Brazilian samba may have been stretching himself a little thinly of late, turning his multi-talented hands to composing for films and acting in them as well. Which may explain why his fourth solo album, América Brasil O Disco, was given a limited release in his native Brazil last year.
Released on his own Cafuné Records, it was originally offered as an exclusive post-concert souvenir. And perhaps that is why Jorge has felt able to take a noticeably freer, less purist approach to the samba, most obviously incorporating Seventies funk, soul and more than a dash of Stevie Wonder, but also, and more controversially, exotic instruments for Brazilian samba that is, including the harp, violin and ukulele.
Throughout he marries traditional Brazilian rhythms and transatlantic ornamentations with the kind of casual flair you’d expect, but very quickly it begins to pall, seeming neither one thing nor the other with the amalgamation of the two running the risk of sounding plastic and unconvincing.
That said, there's undeniable energy to the bristling opening track América Do Norte, to the insistently jaunty Só No Chat, and the delicious, slapped-bass funk of Samba Rock. And a word of absolution, too, for the sole standout track: the light as a feather bossa nova-laced, Barry White-inflected love song to his wife Mariana.
But set these beside the laid-back to the point of woefully lazy Cuidar De Mim, the by-numbers contrivance of other songs and the album's only cover version, an uninspired and uninspiring take on João Carlos and Gabriel Moura’s Voz Da Massa, and you need to be aware that you should approach this otherwise interesting-because-transitional album with a degree of caution. It's samba and it's Seu Jorge, but not as we know it.