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July/August 2006

Tania Maria
Via Brasil
Sunnyside

Pianist and vocalist Tania Maria first got my attention in the ’80s with her live album recorded in San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall; this Brazilian dynamo effortlessly blended powerhouse piano chops with melodically rich scatting and whistling, and certainly became one of my heroines. This reissue of her 1975 Paris release features her rhythmically charged arrangements and vocals along with bassist Hélio and drummer-percussionist Boto, and showcases her extraordinary take on standards as well as modern pieces by such composers as Chico Buarque, Jobim, Jorge Ben and Dori Caymmi, to name a few.

From the outset, Maria grabs the listener by the throat and gets you moving with her enthusiasm and in-your-face playing and singing, featuring monstrous left-hand syncopation and that blues-tinged right hand. Her tribute to Jorge Ben on track two alone is worth the price of admission, and her choice of tunes is spot on. She includes an overdubbed Rhodes on the Jobim classic “Aguas de Março,” and phrases the melody in entirely new way over the funky rhythm section. Maria can also croon her way through ballads and hip it up on the funkier tunes, but she clearly makes every song her own with her compelling presence and power.

With Via Brasil, Vol. 1, Tania Maria graces us with a fabulously energetic and raw collection of exquisite tunes and gives her talented all to every one.

Originally published in July/August 2006
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