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Pamela Driggs: Itacuruca

Who’d have guessed that upstate Nevada would produce one of the most delightful contemporary interpreters of Brazilian jazz? Lovely Pamela Driggs got hooked at a young age on the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, studied Portuguese at college and traveled to Brazil as an exchange student. A decade ago she became lead singer for the superb, Phoenix-based group Brasilia, relocated with the band to New York City, then met and married celebrated Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo, a key figure of the bossa nova movement. Together they crafted Driggs’ marvelous solo debut disc, Midnight Sun. Now Driggs and Lubambo are back with a sophomore album, Itacuruca (441), recorded in Rio, that’s beautiful enough to take your breath away. Driggs, who sounds somewhat akin to the spellbinding Lani Hall (of Brasil ’66 fame), opens with a truly unique scatted samba treatment of “Take Five,” then segues into the Valle brothers’ wonderfully celebratory “Batucada Surgiu.” As expected, there are several nods to Jobim, including an exceptional rendition of his classic “Aqua de Beber” and equally outstanding versions of the lesser-known gems “Samba do Aviao” and the downy “Vivo Sonhando.” The latter showcases Driggs’ satiny sound against the starkly stunning background of Lubambo’s solo guitar. So, too, does the closing track, a gently burnished treatment of Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Imagination.” It’s magic.

Originally Published