Single-named vocalist Irene gives equal billing to her Latin Jazz Band on Summer Samba, and with good reason. They're the saving grace of the CD, though a bit of a misnomer. Actually, this isn't a Latin Jazz Band so much as a Bossa Nova Ensemble. Argentinian bassist Daniel Groisman and two Brazilians, guitarist Marco Tulio and percussionist Cristiano Novelli, form the backbone of the group. Together they churn up infectious rhythms that bubble, percolate and dance throughout the disc's fourteen tracks. Saxophonist Scott Martin also spices things up with some Getz-inspired solos and obbligatos. Throw in piano, keyboards and some extra flute and you have the makings of some tasty Brazilian jazz....which brings us to the leader of the group. Irene glides confidently through a set of bossa standards and Great American Songbook fixtures. She seems to be aiming for the kittenish glee of Astrud Gilberto, albeit more mature. (She pulls two tunes, the title track and "One Note Samba," from Astrud's songbook as well as playing a toned-down Sarah Vaughan on "Whatever Lola Wants," which got the Latin treatment on "Viva Vaughan." ) Her Portuguese comes off well, her French ("Samba Saravan") a little stiffly. She does occasionally commit the singer's sins of accenting in odd places ("Waters of March") and breaking up multisyllabic words for effect ("My Heart Belongs to Daddy"). But Irene never finds that something to break herself away from the plethora of singers attempting jazz.The disc's opening cut, "Sway," offers a good example. Avoiding the macho swagger of Dean Martin's take (wisely) and the girl-power come-ons of more recent renditions (a certain set of Dolls, perhaps?), Irene settles for a tame middle ground--more of a tea dance than a samba. None of the CD's material rises above the perfunctory."Summer Samba" represents a throwback to the 60's when pop singers of the day might give Laurindo Almeida a call and cut some sides back when bossa nova was still the faddish "new thing." It's a sincere effort, the kind you might hear at an airport lounge while waiting on your connecting flight to Rio.
Artist / Group Name:Irene and Her Latin Jazz Band
CD Title:Summer Samba
Tracks:Sway, The Constant Rain, Summer Samba, Whatever Lola Wants, Waters of March, Só Danço Samba, LIttle Boat, So Many Stars, Samba Saravah, Pretty World, Bésame Mucho, One Note Samba, My Heart Belongs to Daddy, Lets Face The Music and Dance'
Musicians:Irene (vocals), Daniel Groisman (bass), Marco Tulio (guitar), Cristiano Novelli (percussion), Ron Snyder (piano), Scott Martin (saxophone and flute), Rich Wenzel (piano), Brice Martin (flute)