On her American debut, Italian chanteuse Chiara Civello sounds as if she spent her formative years in Rio rather than Rome. That’s not just because her ensemble includes vocalist Daniel Jobim-grandson of Antonio Carlos Jobim-and drummer Paulo Braga. On tracks such as Rosa Passos’ “Outono” and a suitably dreamy cover of Suzanne Vega’s “Caramel,” the overarching influence on both her vocal and musical arrangements is the delicate sultriness that has endeared bossa and other Brazilian styles to millions of people.
Civello and producer Russ Titelman have called on the talents of an accomplished company of young and established players, including drummers Steve Gadd, Dan Reiser and Jamey Haddad, organist and pianist Larry Goldings, cellist Mark Stewart, guitarist Adam Rogers, saxophonist Miguel Zenon, bassist Ben Street, pianist Alain Mallet, guitarist Guilherme Monteiro, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and bassist Alex Alvear. The diverse assemblage surrounds Civello’s Astrud Gilberto-meets-Sade voice with plenty of texture.
“The Wrong Goodbye” and “Here Is Everything” (the latter with an assured solo from Zenon), with their plaintive intensity, are typical of Civello’s oeuvre, dwelling on the loss of love and the sights, sounds and even smells that can either heighten or camouflage despair. “Nature Song” and the title track carry the sensory motif into the realm of the seasons, with a cycle of despair, comfort, renewal and, at the end, either hopefulness or fear. The latter sentiment is echoed on “Trouble,” with Civello getting songwriting help from Burt Bacharach.
Not everything is so emotionally weighed down, however. “Ora” conveys a sort of gentle euphoria, and on the delicate ballad “In Questi Giorni” Civello speaks of shedding remorse.
With Last Quarter Moon Civello has taken a creditable first step. She hasn’t yet shed her influences, but she has the makings of a noteworthy singer-songwriter in the pop-jazz mold.