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Monica Vasconcelos, Hih

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hih as in 'grooving hih': that's how Brazilian born singer Mnica Vasconcelos, who 15 years ago traded Sao Paulo for London, introduces her latest work. She has certainly grown since her 2004 release Gente with quartet, Nis 4. Her ripe voice reaches more lyrical and dynamic depths than ever before.

hih bridges cultures; an intellectual displacement familiar to most migrs. A musical journey that is best made with friends: Vasconcelos opts for musicians with whom she goes back a long way: keyboardist Steve Lodder and bassist Dudley Phillips. They augment Vasconcelos' Brazilian vocabulary with a solid jazz frame and share with her an open approach to composition that rebuffs artificial boundaries of genre and style.

The result: 14 very different, equally strong tracks (mostly co-written originals); organically assembled on an album that never yields a boring moment. The mood is a sophisticated architecture of elusive passion, where the Brazilian zest for life travels quieter avenues: Vasconcelos' classy signature style.

Adding to the magic is the unmistakable voice of Robert Wyatt. With partner, Alfie Benge, he co-writes two of the album's tunes, including Out Of The Doldrums, where, with Phillips, they craft a Nascimento-like delicacy.

Additional guests include Laubrock (Nois 4, F-ire) on gutsy soprano, and Dudu Fonseca with some luminous drumming. Adriano Adewales percussion enriches the Brazilian soundscape; additional drive comes from drummer Ricardo Mosca (Arquitetura, hih). Meanwhile, the ijexa Salt Meets Fire or the ballad Lagrimas Negras allow the intensity of her voice to blossom in a more intimate setting.

This is Monica Vasconcelos' most mature album to date. She's a musician who embraces life in its entirety, and returns it to us with wings. Not one note in this album is meaningless or dispassionate. It's terrific artistry.

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