Sunday, November 26, 2006

Infinito Particular by Marisa Monte (Brazil)

New York Times' review of Marisa Montes' Infinito Particular

Simple beauty isn’t enough for Marisa Monte, the Brazilian singer and songwriter who finished her United States tour on Tuesday night at the Beacon Theater. Her music was exquisite and thoughtful, as usual; her staging was arty and often distracting.

Ms. Monte has a voice that caresses every note she sings and an ear for melody, whether it’s in an old samba or a Motown-flavored rock tune. Her aspirations are large. She started her concert with the title song of one of two albums she has released simultaneously, “Infinito Particular” (Metro Blue/EMI), cooing, “Don’t get lost when you enter my private infinity” as the music glimmered serenely. She sang in darkness, with just one spotlight illuminating her face for a few moments.

Through a career that began in the late 1980s, Ms. Monte has become a star in Brazil while her music has drawn closer to home. On her early albums she looked toward jazz and soul from the United States, drawing songs from Gershwin and Marvin Gaye as well as bossa nova, and mixing rock rhythms with Brazilian ones. “Tribalistas,” her 2002 collaboration with the songwriters Carlinhos Brown and Arnaldo Antunes that became a major hit album in Brazil, often leaned toward rock.

But on “Infinito Particular” and its companion album, “Universo ao Meu Redor” (Metro Blue/EMI), Ms. Monte personalizes the Brazilian ballad, surrounding gentle tunes in untraditional yet felicitous arrangements. Her band onstage included bassoon, flugelhorn, cello and harmonica along with the traditional small samba guitar, the cavaquinho, and enough guitars and percussion for intricate picking and subtle rhythms. “Universo ao Meu Redor,” which means “Universe Around Me,” is steeped in samba, featuring Ms. Monte’s songs alongside some older tunes, like “Meu Canário,” that have been known around Rio de Janeiro, but not previously recorded. It’s an album of delicate, small-scale samba with songs about private longings, not the booming samba of Carnival.

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