Jazz Review: Carol Saboya - Belezas: The Music of Ivan Lins and Milton Nascimento

The music of two Brazilian masters is treated with care.
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carol saboyaBrazil native Carol Saboya makes her U.S. solo debut with Belezas: The Music of Ivan Lins and Milton Nascimento. The record, like her previously recorded album based on the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, feels like a love letter to all things Brazilian.

“I thought about great Brazilian composers who are known in the States and Ivan Lins and Milton Nascimento made sense,” says Saboya. “They’re modern in a way that’s not bossa nova. They have these great harmonies and beautiful melodies, and their music really lends itself to jazz.”

Backed by a quartet that includes pianist (and father) Antonio Adolfo, guitarist Claudio Spiewak, bassist Jorge Helder, and drummer Rafael Barata, Saboya manages a sense for the melodic that is lovely and tender. It helps that the band creates space in simple, free-flowing arrangements, serving the Lins and Nascimento songs well by allowing her the time to own the emotion and majesty behind the music.

Saboya has recorded with her father before on Antonio Adolfo and Carol Saboya Ao Vivo/Live, a collection of Brazilian standards. Their relationship is apparent in the subtler moments of their interplay on Belezas, as Adolfo seems to fully understand his daughter’s musical needs.

Nascimento’s “Bola de Meia, Bola de Gude” comes from the early part of his career and takes on a lively maracatu-driven gait. The title translates to “Sock Ball and Marbles” and finds Saboya rolling through Portuguese lyrics while Adolfo’s piano lays gentle chords as foundation. A sleek Spiewak solo glides gracefully with Saboya’s wordless vocals to craft pure beauty.

Belezas’ crafting of exquisite moments continues with pieces like Lins' protest song “Abre Alas.” Written with Vitor Martins, the piece was written in the late 1970s and was motivated by years of Brazilian dictatorship. The song is reinforced by Adolfo’s vivid chording and Saboya’s expert enunciation: she floats through greater layers, lithely changing tones from chorus to verse and back again.

Also of note is the David Liebman-supported “Tarde,” a Nascimento ballad that comes to life with Saboya’s sensual tone. Liebman’s tenor saxophone proves the ideal dance partner, bringing two voices together in a sensual dance under the elegant moonlight. The band plays in full service to the moment, subconsciously stepping back and pushing forward at the right intervals.

Saboya’s love letter to her home is a passionate, engrossing piece of beautiful music and a delightful illustration of interplay and intricacy. Belezas should not only reintroduce U.S. audiences to the music of Lins and Nascimento, it should make Carol Saboya a household name for jazz fans everywhere.