Don't be fooled by the cover of Zona Sul's Pure Love (Nagel-Heyer). The woman pictured there is not Zona Sul. She is Sophie Wegener, the vocalist for a German-based quintet that takes its name from the southernmost section of the Rio coastline, which includes Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. Filling out the group are pianist Tizian Jost, guitarist Pedro Tagliani, bassist Sava Medan and drummer Hajo V. Hadeln. Wegener, the progeny of a French mother and German father, raised in Paris, London, New York and Munch, is as much a linguist as she is a vocalist. As evidenced here, she sings authoritatively in Portuguese, very respectably in Italian and French (particularly on her cover of the 1950s Henri Salvador classic "Dans Mon Ile") and quite dreadfully in English.
She opens with an English treatment of Jobim's easy-flowing "The Waters of March" that is achingly hesitant and unsure. So, too, are "Dreamer" and "If You Never Come to Me." Fortunately, Portuguese versions of all three Jobim masterpieces are included as bonus tracks. Somehow, "Bonita," which Jobim wrote in English in 1963 to express his adoration for Candice Bergen, escapes unscathed. Far, far better are her sun-dappled interpretations of Jobim's "Falando de Amor" (an even dreamier variation of his "The Girl From Ipanema" theme) and his sweetly romantic "Chovendo na Roseira," and her creamy rendition of Marcos Valle's "Dorme Profundo" (sort of the soft, sleepy answer to his robust "Summer Samba.") Best is her powerfully desolate reading of Jobim's "black-and-white" portrait of lost love, "Retrato em Branco e Preto."