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May 2001

Luciana Souza
The Poems of Elizabeth Bishop and Other Songs
Sunnyside

Elizabeth Bishop is one of the most respected names in modern American poetry, known for her strong voice and evocative verses. Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza likewise possesses a strong voice and has undertaken a bold, evocative project, to set several of Bishop's poems to music and assemble them in one volume.

Souza's pedigree is top-notch having worked with a stellar list of musicians-Hermeto Pascoal, Danilo Perez, Bob Moses, Ben Sher and Steve Kuhn among others-and her instrument is distinctive and enjoyable. Her previous solo CD, the mostly Brazilian-inspired An Answer to Your Silence, revealed her to be a talent worth watching and cheering on. Unfortunately, though Bishop's poems are gems, and her connection to Brazil (she lived there for some time and edited an excellent collection of modern Brazilian poetry) make this collaboration a natural, Souza's compositions, while at times marry perfectly with the verses, lack variety in both the harmonic/melodic and the textural/dynamic components; too much sameness. Had a couple of these tunes been included in a mix of other composers' material, this would have likely been a more successful outing.

In addition, the recording itself is at fault for the lack of spark I felt. Souza is buried in the mix, as if covered by a heavy blanket, and the band itself seems muted and lost, unforgivable in these days of modern recording technology that can put a female vocalist dead center in the middle of the living room. Shame on this engineer.

Originally published in May 2001
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