Joyce Moreno & Kenny Werner: Poesia

Nearly a half-century into one of the most respected careers in Brazilian jazz, singer-songwriter Joyce Moreno remains singularly magnificent at age 68. Her voice has grown deeper and richer, its chestnut luster as radiant as ever. Widely known as simply Joyce, she has released more than three dozen albums since 1968 but rarely sings in English, and has seldom performed with American musicians. Which makes this 13-track union with pianist Kenny Werner all the more special.

“Poesia” is Portuguese for poetry, and Moreno explores an international olio of lyrical masters, extending from such homegrown legends as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Edu Lobo and Dori Caymmi to Noel Coward, Italy’s Bruno Martino, Abbey Lincoln and the Broadway duo of Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Though Moreno has written more than 300 songs, she includes only two of her own compositions, teaming with Werner to craft the gentle opener, “Second Love Song,” and revisiting the beatific “Novelo.”

Moreno has spent decades interpreting the Brazilian greats, so her stunning renditions of Caymmi’s “É O Amor Outra Vez,” Lobo’s “Choro Bandido” and Jobim’s “Olha Maria” come as no surprise. Fully as sublime are her intuitive readings of Martino’s passionate “Estate,” Coward’s coy “Mad About the Boy,” Lincoln’s philosophic “Throw It Away,” Comden and Green’s wistful “Some Other Time” and, to close, a stirring “The Water Is Wide.” Equal credit must, however, be accorded Werner, whose accompaniment is as intelligent as it is gorgeous.