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Last year Brazilian singer, guitarist, and composer Joyce (who recently decided to start using her full name, Joyce Moreno) released Ao Vivo (EMI, Brazil), a live record of material spanning her four-decade career. Like most of the albums she's made since the late 70s, it's in a sophisticated jazz-bossa nova mode--ever since her 1977 move to New York, where she started working with jazz folks like saxophonist Michael Brecker and arranger Claus Ogerman, that influence has marked her sound. Ao Vivo, cut with her longtime working quartet--whose drummer, Tutty Moreno, is her husband--is typically breezy and sparse. Joyce occasionally indulges in wordless vocal improvisations, but she's at her best when she sticks closer to the tunes, subtly shading them with her rhythmic dexterity, melodic invention, and precise control of pitch. Pianist João Donato and singers Dori Caymmi, Leila Pinheiro, and Mônica Salmaso all make cameos.
More recently British label Far Out has released Visions of Dawn (pictured), recorded in Paris in 1976 with master percussionist Nana Vasconcelos and bassist-guitarist Mauricio Maestro. This early album is relatively folksy, in the mode of her classic 1972 collaboration with Nelson Angelo, though you can hear her gravitating toward the more buoyant sound of her later material. It's astonishing that such an excellent recording sat in the can for 33 years.
The all-acoustic set includes gorgeous harmony singing by Maestro, his high-pitched cry perfectly shadowing and countering Joyce's brisk lead. With just three players, it's a bare-bones recording, and that's a big part of what makes it so special; there's no trace of the slickness that's marred many of Joyce's later albums. The delicate interplay of Joyce's and Maestro's guitars is lovely--simultaneously airy and ornate--and the record as a whole has a similar duality, with the quick intuitive interactions between the players standing out in especially sharp relief thanks to the music's casual, familiar feel. Joyce later rerecorded some of this material, like "Clareana" and "Tudo Bonito," but the versions on Visions of Dawn have an immediacy that's as convincing as anything I've heard by her. Maestro, best known for cofounding the popular samba band Boca Livre with singer Ze Renato, wrote or cowrote most of the nine songs, and their rustic feel perfectly complement Joyce's more refined sound. The album closes with a weightless reading of the classic Vasconcelos piece "Chegada." I sure wish records like this were discovered more often.
Anthony Braxton, Milford Graves, and William Parker, Beyond Quantum (Tzadik)
Mauricio Pessoa, Mauricio Pessoa (MP,B)
Ari Hoenig, Bert's Playground (Dreyfus)
Grascals, Keep on Walkin' (Rounder)
Michael Maksymenko, Business Cide (ReR)