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Daniela Soledade Introduces Herself

Descended from a vaunted Brazilian family, she's spearheading bossa nova's next generation

Daniela Soledade
Daniela Soledade (photo: 805 Studios)

North American jazz fans are just starting to learn the name Daniela Soledade, but in Brazil, where she was born and raised through her early teens, the family moniker echoes across some eight decades of musical creation. On her second album, Pretty World (Blue Line), the sleek, bossa nova-inspired vocalist gracefully walks a high wire, balancing her need to define herself as an artist and her desire to celebrate a brilliant and enduring legacy.

Before moving to Florida at the age of 14 with her mother, Soledade spent a good deal of her free time in rehearsals and recording studios with her father, guitarist Paulinho Soledade, a songwriter, producer and Baden Powell protégé. He absorbed the innovative bossa nova sound as a child running around Rio’s Zum-Zum Club, a proving group for emerging stars opened and run by his father, songwriter and Antônio Carlos Jobim confederate Paulino Soledade. Paulino’s wife, Lina de Luca, introduced Jobim to Vinícius de Moraes, and went on to create the choreography for their first epochal collaboration Orfeu da Conceição, the 1956 stage production that eventually became Marcel Camus’ Academy Award-winning, bossa nova-igniting film Black Orpheus.

Recorded mostly in Rio with Daniela’s father on bass and his longtime musical compatriot Claudio Infante on drums, Pretty World taps into that rich history, exploring a program of songs vividly illustrating that the Soledade family has thrived not in solitude but in a spectacularly creative community. For Daniela, the thrill wasn’t just working with her father “and his friend from their teenage years,” she said. “It was going into the studio with him and digging deeper in my grandfather’s work, realizing he left a huge contribution to Brazilian music. What an honor and gift to continue! And then friends of his, these icons, have gotten into contact and become mentors to me.”

Where her 2019 debut album, A Moment of You, introduced Soledade as a singer fluent in the supple pulse of bossa nova, her second release casts a much wider net, starting with the title-track opener by great Brazilian jazz pianist Antonio Adolfo (originally “Sa Marina” but rechristened with English lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman). Like Soledade, he’s a longtime Florida resident, but they recorded together in Rio, offering a fresh new take on his international hit. Connecting the day before he returned to the U.S., Adolfo was determined to make the session, telling her, “I’ve been a fan and friend of your family for 40 years.”

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She ended up writing a song with another family friend, 84-year-old bossa nova icon Roberto Menescal, supplying the Portuguese lyric to his tune “Como É Gostoso Sonhar,” though she had to clear up some understandable confusion. “At first he thought my grandfather was my dad,” she said. “He was telling me stories about playing in the Zum-Zum Club every night for four years. When he agreed to make a video for the song with me it was so wonderful because he lives on a little island and to get there you have to take a little boat, which of course is [the title of] his best-known recording, ‘O Barquinho.’”  

Expanding the album’s family dynamic, she works closely with guitarist/arranger Nate Najar, her husband, producer, and songwriting collaborator. Randy Brecker, who has deep family ties to Brazil himself, contributes some glowing flugelhorn work on the couple’s original “Beijo No Arpoador,” while Harry Allen echoes an earlier tenor saxophonist with a flair for bossa nova on their arching love song “Nothing Compares.” The album closes with her a cappella rendition of the Jobim/De Moraes standard “Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar.” It might seem like she’s overly exposed, but anyone who’s been to a performance populated by Brazilians will recognize the track as an invitation to sing along. Continuing the Soledade family tradition, she’s finding her own way with some consummate company.

Andrew Gilbert

Andrew Gilbert is a Berkeley-based freelancer who has written about arts and culture since 1989 for numerous publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, East Bay Express, Berkeleyside, and KQED’s California Report. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he experienced a series of mind-blowing epiphanies listening to jazz masters at Kuumbwa Jazz Center in the late 1980s, performances he remembers more vividly than the gigs he saw last month.