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Joyce Moreno: Cool

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For five decades she’s reigned as Brazil’s preeminent jazz vocalist, known nationwide by just her first name, and for almost half her career she’s resisted offers to craft an album of American standards. It took a Cole Porter tune to change her mind. Passing time during a sound check, Joyce Moreno started fiddling with Porter’s “Love for Sale.” It was a light-bulb moment, sparking her realization that such classics could be made her own if she simply figured out how to “dress them differently,” as she puts it in press notes. And indeed she does throughout Cool, imaginatively incorporating Latin accents with consistent, if not absolute, success.

Accompanying herself per usual-Moreno’s dazzling guitar work is as impressive as her sparkling vocals-and shaping all the arrangements, she is joined by a top-drawer trio of her countrymen: New York-based pianist Helio Alves, bassist Rodolfo Stroeter and her husband, percussionist Tutty Moreno. “Love for Sale” leads off the 13-song project, and Porter’s homage to the world’s oldest profession is cast lighter, sunnier than usual. Moreno’s reinterpretations of “Fever,” “Invitation” and “‘Round Midnight” are affectingly dense and sensuous; her “Nature Boy,” complete with a swirling chorus, is more darkly mystical than ethereal. Expectedly, “My Favorite Things” positively glows and “Moon River” is softly ruminative. Unexpectedly, the Harry Belafonte signature “Day-O,” a.k.a. “The Banana Boat Song,” is beautifully refitted as a gently roiling ballad. But a couple of selections get lost in musical translation, notably West Side Story‘s “Cool,” lacking its requisite tension, and another Porter gem, “Let’s Do It,” missing its winking slyness.

Originally Published