Do you have those close friends who suggest things and, without hesitation, that interior trust in their taste leads to instant acceptance? Luísa Maita came to me from one such suggestion from a music buddy, “This woman is incredible. Her music is incredible. Buy her album at once and make it your august soundtrack. I can’t turn it off.”
We had been exchanging music since meeting in Paris, and she previously spent time in Brazil, so she could not be wrong. Little did I know, she was right on the ‘I can’t turn it off’ part, as it’s now January and it hasn’t drifted. Luísa Maita is the daughter of composer Amado Maita and music producer Myriam Taubkin, and performs neo-samba. But when people try to classify it as world music, you are not doing it justice as her fusion of samba with uptempo jazz is more befitting a dance floor than bouncing off coffee beans in a sophisticated coffeehouse. While Lero-Lero starts with the smooth, bright acoustic of “Lero-Lero”, it eases back and ends with the quiet and sleepy “Amor e Paz”, a reward to the faithful in completing one of the more lush releases of 2010.
“Lero-Lero” is the frame and portrait of the album, starting off unassumingly with a bare guitar and Luísa’s velvet voice that contains an airy jazz quality. As note upon note is released, a picture of the borders of São Paulo is painted in through Paulo Lepetit’s bass and Kuki Storlarski’s subtle percussion. While the lines she paints start simply, they seem to curl and thicken like self-animated art nouveau, especially as her chorused vocals build upon one another to complete her tale of friendship in the ghettos of Brazil. (I previously noted her background in more depth in a previous concert review.)
The slow songs are those that could potentially toss the inpatient, unaccustomed into “this is just another world music album” pile-well, us Americans and our inability to adapt to relaxed environments such as the everywhere else. “Mire e Veja,” with its paced, late-night lounge jazz drumming, has the acoustic guitar shadowing Luísa’s sumptuous singing. Her lyrics treat urban life and love, with “Mire e Veja” reflecting the constant search for beauty in a city often grayed and dulled through concrete. “Um Vento Bom” reflects the optimistic spirit lifting in the wisps of the notes coming from her lips, a harmony braced by Rodrigo Campos’ strings. While “Aí Vem Ele,” the calmest song devoted to dating anxiety, lends itself lyrically to a woman who, despite apprehensions, finds and tempers her feelings in the comfort of an embrace with the man she’s meeting.
The absolute standout comes named over a concocted word and the hyena-like cuíca with “Desencabulada.” The song lays back on the rolling waves of Luísa’s voice and one of the more inventive bass lines of late before it roils into an intoxicating repeating chant. The cuíca is the hook, and Maita’s voice is the lure before “Fulaninha”‘s handclaps and dancehall rhythms. While Lero-Lero’s slower songs leave me in a dreamed swirl, slightly distracted and seeking a quick escape, they always tend to hold my attention due to her thorough talent. Nevertheless, the tracks with a quickness are exhilarating in their enchantment, a pop-like euphoria with intricate depth to the sound and voice.