North and South
As an unapologetic devotee of Brazilian songbirds, I am equally in love with the sweltering intensity of Luciana Souza and cool temperance of Ithamara Koorax, both of whom recently delivered remarkable new albums. North and South (Sunnyside), Souza's dazzling follow-up to her Grammy-nominated Brazilian Duos, marks the completion of a landmark trilogy that began three years ago with The Poems of Elizabeth Bishop. The title is meant to convey Souza's equal comfort with classic Brazilian and American fare. True enough. She handles a wistful "All of Me" as easily as a buoyant "Chega de Saudade (No More Blues)." The album's real distinction is, however, that it showcases her in tandem with three of contemporary jazz's most dynamic pianists. Edward Simon ignites "Chega de Saudade," helps fuel the rising passion of her self-penned "I Shall Wait" and skillfully accents the muted joy of "Never Let Me Go." Bruce Barth beautifully underlines the plaintive yearning of "All of Me" and adds Carnaval effervescence to the self-actualized wisdom of the singer's own "No Wonder." Souza soars highest, though, with Fred Hersch. Their "When Your Lover Has Gone" is a stirring study in gray self-pity and resigned dejection. Conversely, they shape a reverential "Corcovado"-moonlight soft and lullaby tender-that is utter enchantment.