Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Melody Gardot The Absence 2012

I was looking forward to this release because I liked her first two so very much. Then as the release date approached, I heard it was her Latin-influenced record, and I got nervous. I like some Latin music, but usually only when performed by Latin artists. I've been disappointed by American or European artists attempts at incorporating Latin styles. Then the record arrived.

The album is produced by Heitor Pereira, a Brazilian-born guitar player and composer for film scores. He also plays guitar throughout, and even gets a duet vocal. There are Brazilian, Cuban, African, and Caribbean sounds incorporated in most, but not all, of the songs. She sings in English, Portuguese, French and maybe some Spanish. And yet it is still a Melody Gardot recording in every way, including all the best ways. And I think the reason for that is songwriting. Gardot wrote all of the songs on this record (three have co-writers), and the quality of her songwriting has certainly not diminished.

Mira kicks things off on an upbeat note. Amelia follows, it's guitar- and drum-driven sound is as smooth as an old Scotch in a small Brazilian bar. The soft kiss-off of So Long (Don't wait up for me, darling, 'cause I'm not coming home), and the slow tango of So We Meet Again My Heartache, with it's vaguely familiar melody and lovely string arrangement, both feature great lyrics and singing. Lisboa ends the first side, and is just a little too languid for its own good.

Impossible Love has a fabulous gypsy-sounding orchestration that features the bandoneon (the classic tango "accordion", actually closer in size and sound to the concertina). The cabaret style jazz-pop of her first two records surfaces on If I Tell You I Love You, which also has a fine lyric. Goodbye is a Brazil via New Orleans march, with a sultry-snarly vocal and great clarinet solo. Se Voce Me Ama is the vocal duet with Pereira, and while it is slow, the guitars and vocals are very pretty. The lush arrangement given to My Heart Won't Have It Any Other Way is delightful. Sinatra would have done this song for sure if she'd written it in 1955. The closing Iemanja is a quick-paced African/Caribbean piece with a rollicking chorus.

It's grown on me as I've listened to it more times. If there's a gripe, it's that there's a lot of slow songs, but that claim can be made for her previous work as well. And there are some luminous, albeit slow, performances on most of them. If you haven't heard 2009's My One And Only Thrill, you really should. Larry Klein did a great job with that record. So this one gets 1/2 star less, and that may just be a matter of taste. If you're fan of Norah Jones, or much closer, Madeleine Peyroux, you should know about Melody Gardot by now. If not, you're welcome.

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