Friday, April 04, 2008


Imagina: Songs of Brasil
By Karrin Allyson
Concord Records

Karrin Allyson seems to have a facility for bilingual albums. In 1999’s From Paris to Rio alternated between French and Portuguese lyrics (as well as some English). Her latest, Imagina (Dummies translation here), concentrates on the songs of Brazil, but nicely blends the original Portuguese with both original and classic English translations.

If not fluent in Portuguese, she has no problem singing the authentic lyrics of classic Brazilian songs. She opens with the familiar Vinicius de Moraes lyrics to the instantly recognizable “A Felicidade” before segueing into Susannah McCorkle’s less familiar English lyrics. The bittersweet words seem to describe the late vocalist’s life all too aptly when Allyson sings: “Happiness must end, but sadness goes on and on.” McCorkle’s “Vivo Sonhando (Living on Dreams)” also takes on additional layers of tragic meaning, through lyrics like: “Everyone says that I’m crazy, but I can’t change.”

“Correnteza” is a much less recorded Jobim-Bonfa tune, as opposed to say, “Insensatez.” Allyson’s brief rendition is all Portuguese, with the attractive added textures of Gil Goldstein’s accordion and Steve Nelson’s vibes—a great combination of sounds.

Imagina features two songs with original English lyrics by Chris Caswell, “Medo de Amar (Surrender the Soul)” and “Pra Dizer Adeus (Time to Say Goodbye).” Both lead with the original lyrics and then shift to Caswell’s English. The vibe of elegant lament is heightened on both by Goldstein on accordion.

Allyson also covers the classic American jazz-bossa songbook, like Jon Hendricks’ gently upbeat “Desafinado (Slightly Out of Tune). All English, or some relaxed scat, it is the strongest all-around jazz cut, with swinging contributions from Nelson. For Gene Lees’ lyrics to “Double Rainbow,” it is back to the Portuguese then English format.

Allyson has assembled a talented band, many of whom often back her. Goldstein is ever eloquent, on both piano and accordion, and Allyson’s Kansas City associate Rod Fleeman solos with taste and style. Hearing him here suggests he ought to have a greater national reputation.

Imagina is quite a well produced album. Give credit for the unusual clarity of David Finck’s bass solo on “Sonhando” and the tasteful arrangements, most by Allyson alone, or in collaboration with band members. Despite some last minute changes to the program, the selected songs prove a good match for her expressive voice. Always respectful and at times dramatic, Allyson demonstrates a rich affinity for the songs of Brazil.