When Rosa Passos appeared on Yo-Yo Ma’s recent Sony albums of Brazilian music, Obrigado Brazil
and Yo-Yo Ma Obrigado Brazil Live In Concert,
attention was paid not only to the vibrancy of Brazilian music performed on cello, but also to the stay-out-of-the-way-even-though-she’s-impossible-to-ignore singer Rosa Passos. Of complementary styles when addressing Brazilian music, Passos and Ma filled in the spaces left by the other in their minimalism, leaving much to the listeners’ imaginations but also creating opportunities for voice/cello dialog, completing each others’ thoughts. Ma shows up again on Passos’ debut CD on Sony Classical, actually on its bonus track, a passing of the baton to the new leader of her own CD. Introducing "Chega De Saudade" with a rich and apparently mournful cadenza, Ma, as if opening curtains, opens the song up to a burnished glow as Passos saunters in on voice and guitar. And for those listeners who missed the earlier CD’s, Amorosa
is worth hearing just for that track alone, as the cellist provides a previously unheard dimension to Brazilian music, just as Toots Thielemans did when he added harmonica to the mix.
The charm of Passos, though, is her sweetness and understatement as she intentionally recalls the influence of João Gilberto (who incidentally is releasing a new CD as well). As one of the leading proponents of bossa nova, Gilberto transferred his huge popularity in Brazil to an international audience when Stan Getz adopted the music for his legendary albums in the early 1960’s. With obvious reference to Gilberto, Passos even names her first CD after his landmark recording and includes some of the songs from it, like "Wave," "S’Wonderful" and "Besame Mucho." And the orchestrations of Claus Ogerman have been substituted by those of Jorge Calandrelli.
With an authenticity and ease that’s somehow missing when American singers attempt samba and bossa nova, the sway of her music comes through even during the rests of long tones, the ever-present feel insinuating itself into the listener from the time that it’s established at the beginning of each song. The CD starts with a recollection of the important collaboration of Gilberto and Getz when Passos sings Jobim’s "Voce Vai Ver," Rodrigo Ursaia’s tenor sax attaining the same liquidity and eloquence that Getz added to the genre, particularly during his melodically constructed solo in the middle of the tune.
Passos, multi-talented, wrote "Essa E Pr’o João for Amorosa
as her own personal reminiscence of listening to Gilberto as she was growing up in the Brazilian state of Bahia, the similarity of styles readily apparent as the music respires from her as naturally as air. And in a pairing as memorable as that of Passos’ and Ma’s, she teams up with 87-year-old French singer Henri Salvador on "Que Reste-T-Il De Nos Amours" ("I Wish You Love"), she singing in Portuguese and he in French, thereby showing a similarity of temperaments that’s evident when singers like Karrin Allyson investigate both French and Brazilian music as sources for their recordings. With a paucity of new Brazilian singers recording bossa nova, now considered by some to be a style past its prime, Passos faces the promising opportunity to bring attention to its songs again, and possibly to become one of its leading exponents of her generation.