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April 2001

Samba Brasil
So Many Stars
Empathy Records

Samba Brasil's musical undertaking is full of energy but the vocals fall way short. The quartet, made up of Catalina Szabo (vocals, piano, keyboards), Gene Bozzi (drums, percussion, keyboards, bass, vocals), Jeff Fuller (guitars, keyboards, vocals) and Tim Moran (saxes, flutes, clarinet), is responsible for nine compositions. The fun, lively baiao that opens the CD is followed by another gem, the samba "Friday the 13th," with Moran's able sax solos and Fuller's jamming bass.

Good arrangements with lots of swing carry the group's originals forward, but the album suffers on better known repertoire, such as Jobim and de Moraes' "Garota de Ipanema (Girl From Ipanema)" and Lobo and Netinho's "Tristeza (Sadness)." It's a difficult task to improve on classic songs. That is also the case on "So Many Stars...," Sergio Mendes and Alan and Marilyn Bergman's beautiful ballad. Szabo's keyboard work, the string section and Moran's flute solo are lost among the tentative and weak vocals, distracting from the powerful lyrics. Szabo's voice stretches beyond her upper-range abilities on most tracks, and she comes across as almost screaming in some of the songs. She improves somewhat on the vocalese numbers, and that may be something the group explores on future releases along with their fine instrumentals.

Originally published in April 2001
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