Ron Carter Quartet & Victoria Maldonado: Brasil L.I.K.E.

Ron Carter shares top billing here with the Brazilian vocalist Vitoria Maldonado, but for all of Carter’s bass skills and his undeniable legacy, he and his quartet-pianist Renee Rosnes, drummer Payton Crossley and percussionist Rolando Morales-Matos-are purely in support mode. This is Maldonado’s moment. Originally from São Paulo, Maldonado studied at Berklee before returning to Brazil, and her work reflects the dual influences she absorbed along the way: Brasil L.I.K.E. (it stands for Love, Inspiration, Knowledge, Energy) resides in that sweet spot where Songbook standards from Cole Porter and the Gershwins coexist happily with Jobim/de Moraes.

Tunes like “All of Me,” “How High the Moon” and “I Only Have Eyes for You” have, of course, been covered so many times you’d be forgiven for never wanting to hear another version. These arrangements don’t necessarily bring anything new to them, yet Maldonado’s interpretations may just find their way onto your favorites list before long. She possesses an easygoing, smooth delivery that accentuates the natural warmth of her voice; she somehow makes it all sound so effortless. Carter, here and throughout, rarely steps out. He’s content to push the rhythm gently at just the right pace and allow the others to draw out the cream of each composition. His own set-closing original, “Saudade,” isn’t about him at all; vocals and piano own the track.

All that said, there’s a third element to the recording that cannot be overlooked: The charts, provided by Ruria Duprat’s Brasilian Orchestra (with guests including Randy Brecker on flugelhorn), are lush but never intrusive. Like Carter and his quartet, they are here for one real purpose-to expose the delicious likability of Vitoria Maldonado.

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