With the birth of the bossa-nova movement 50 years ago, João Gilberto proved definitively to American audiences that Brazilian Portuguese is one of the most romantic languages in music. Rosa Passos has taken up that torch in Romance, a lush collection of love songs from the Brazilian music canon, from Jobim’s “Por Causa De Vocé” to Djavan’s “Alibi.” What makes Passos stand out among her Brazilian chanteuse contemporaries is that she is able to so successfully combine the worlds of Música Popular Brasileira, or MPB, and modern jazz. The arrangements by bandmates Paulo Paulelli (bass) and Fábio Torres (piano) wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Shirley Horn Verve date, and the comparisons don’t stop there.
Passos shares a certain laidback, world-weary, intimate approach to phrasing that was central to Horn’s appeal. With Passos’ latest, there’s a sense that she’s lived the words she sings; but while she may have suffered heartbreak, she’s still got high hopes for love. By far the highlight of Romance is the closing track, “Nossos Momentos,” which starts out as a soft duet between Passos and Paulelli and resolves to an intimate trio arrangement, leaving you aching for more.