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Tania Maria: Tempo

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Entering her sixth decade as a performer and fifth as a recording artist, Brazilian pianist and vocalist Tania Maria notes both landmarks with one of her finest albums to date. Teamed solely with legendary bassist Eddie Gomez, Maria delivers a somewhat brief set, just eight tracks, but accomplishes a tremendous amount in 48 minutes. The playlist, blending vocal and instrumental tracks, is evenly split between covers and originals.

Maria and Gomez open with the Italian gem “Estate,” quietly fusing in anticipation of the diverse vibrancy to come. Three additional vocal tracks are plucked from the classic Brazilian songbook, including a gently roiling “Sentado a Beira do Caminho” that seems to be foreshadowing Carnival’s roar, and softly romantic readings of Jobim and Bonfá’s “A Chuva Caiu” and the Maysa gem “Bronzes e Cristais.”

Among the four Maria originals (all co-written with Correa Reis), only the title track includes lyrics. The album’s closer, it is a cunning composition that shifts from melancholic (with a gray-shaded opening passage that recalls Jobim’s “Insensatez”) to contented. Superb as the vocal tracks are, it is the three instrumentals that best showcase the simpatico artistic partnership that Maria and Gomez enjoy. The dense, rich “Senso Unico” alternates between slow dance and urgent swirl; “Dear Dee Vee” is reinvented as a scintillating cat-and-mouse chase; and the multi-shaded “Yeah Man” is a delightful exercise in freeform merriment.

Originally Published