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Kenia: Kenia Celebrates Dorival Caymmi

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The last time vocalist Kenia (Acioly) recorded a tribute record was five years ago, when she celebrated the music of Ivan Lins. Like the still-active Lins, Dorival Caymmi-who died in 2008 at age 94-was a prolific Brazilian composer whose songs are well known by fellow artists but whose name has mostly languished in relative obscurity. (Caymmi is considered a bridge between samba and bossa nova and was a huge influence on Antonio Carlos Jobim, among others.) Kenia’s interpretations of Caymmi’s work retain the Afro-Brazilian rhythmic thrust that was so integral to the Bahian’s music, while applying a refined, modernist coating to the songs, some several decades old.

“Acontece Que Eu Sou Baiano,” which dates from a 1944 film, is typical of the arrangements. It glides along smoothly for a minute, Kenia riding atop its classic midtempo samba beat. Without warning she lays back just a smidgen to allow pianist Fernando Merlino to assert himself, then reclaims the tune for herself. For the English-language ballad “And Roses and Roses,” Kenia plays the role of the experienced blues diva, her easygoing, sultry vocal that of someone who’s been there and back but remains hopeful nonetheless. “Doralice,” written in 1945 and one of Caymmi’s most-covered compositions-best known for its inclusion on Getz/Gilberto-is given a straightforward reading; Merlino, bassist Leo Traversa, guitarist Eric Susoeff and percussionist Lucas Ashby lock in tightly behind the singer. With Jay Ashby contributing both trombone and percussion to several tracks, and Airto Moreira also providing percussion touches, Kenia’s got a formidable crew to help her out on this exuberant and sensual set.

Originally Published