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Caetano Veloso: Orfeu

When last we heard from veteran Brazilian musician and tireless innovator Caetano Veloso, it was with his stunning album Livro. # A wildly yet logically eclectic outpouring of ideas and textures, Livro could feasibly be dubbed a masterpiece, and a jolt of new, mature yet-free-thinking inspiration from a musician whose earliest date back to the gender-bending ’60s heyday of Tropicalia.

Now comes another fascinating project, but this time, Veloso’s handiwork is less in service of his own musical persona, per se, than Brazilian musical culture in a larger sense. His score for the new version of the film Orfeu (Nonesuch 79579; 44:35), directed by Carlos Diegues and based in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. French director Marcel Camus directed the original 1959 film, based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The undulant sensuousness of its Brazilian score virtually introduced the world to the bossa nova, and its theme, “Black Orpheus,” can be found on a well-worn page in any Real Book.

For the new film, Veloso has revisited and re-arranged a lot of the original material, in musical settings alternately lavish in orchestration and drivingly elemental in rhythmic rawness. We also hear a moving new Veloso song, “Sou Voce (I Am You),” in a complementary vein of bittersweet romanticism. In short, it’s a musical portrait of Brazil, by one who knows it well, and who has contributed more than his fair share of that country’s musical culture.

Originally Published