Mônica Salmaso
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Mônica Salmaso
Blue Jackel (www.bluejackel.com)

Voadeira, follow-up to 1997's Trampolim and second release by Brazil's Mônica Salmaso, is so simple and pretty, so uncluttered by the superfluous and masterful with the necessary, as to be near irresistible. Salmaso's vocal is so casually expressive as to seem at times slurred, but can also rise to an exciting beat, as in "Ilu-Ayê." Piano mixes with a variety of Brazilian instruments, with the special effects of atmospheric percussion adding an elusive mystery to many tracks.

On "Dançapé," liquid, shuffling hand percussion, acoustic guitar, and simple accordion accented by flute support Salmaso's understated vocal on a repetitive melody imbued with a gentle inevitability. After a slow and wistful introduction, Salmaso's casual vocal inhabits a softly driven musical ecology of atmospheric percussion, nylon-string guitar, and bass on "O Vento," teasing a rainy day out of the melody. "Valsinha" is a slow piano and clarinet waltz, suggestive of the Portuguese fado of Misia and the Cap Verdean morna of Cesaria Évora, Salmaso's stark vocal simplicity extracting an even more compelling sentimentality from the rising melody. "Canto Em Qualquer Canto" delivers more restrained drama set to a minor-key shuffle featuring piano and viola caipira, a guitar with five pairs of strings, Salmaso lending a haunting aura to an otherwise happy melody.

A sort of childish round, "Cara de Índio" begins quietly with sparse piano backing, tuned percussion and shakers entering in the second verse, dramatic piano and bass break in center continuing to drive the later verses, an intriguing musical journey. "Minha Palhoça," shuffling and jazzy and sparse, presents Salmaso's vocal in a merry fugue with a clarinet, a single drum holding the beat steady. Acoustic bass, as often bowed and plucked as played, highlights Salmaso's effortlessly compelling voice on "Beradero." And "Ilu-Aye (Terra da Vida)" is upbeat Bajian carnaval, just Salmaso's voice and pandeiros, beauty over a scratchy, hip-hop background.

A gorgeous and effortless voice such as Mônica Salmaso's calls for sparse, tasteful production. Sometimes, as with Voadeira, less is more. - Jim Foley

Available from cdroots

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