For many jazz fans in the 1980s and '90s, Kenia's
singing was the gateway to contemporary Brazilian jazz and pop. She
stood out from her compatriots because of her intimate, smooth
vocals-subtle yet soulful-and her finesse with both American standards
and Brazilian material. On We Go will entice a new
generation of listeners, as it showcases Kenia at the top of her form
with a seductive, polished vocal phrasing. The intriguing repertoire
includes songs co-written by Kenia and the Brazilian songwriting legends
Ivan Lins and Antonio Adolfo.
singer, born Kenia Acioly, grew up in Rio de Janeiro and moved to the
U.S. in 1980. She made her recording debut as the featured vocalist on
trumpeter Claudio Roditi's Red on Red, produced by the legendary
Creed Taylor, the producer of "Desafinado" and "The Girl from Ipanema."
Kenia established herself as one of the most popular Brazilian vocalists
in the U.S. with her MCA solo debut Initial Thrill (1987) and Distant Horizon
(1988), both of which gained substantial radio airplay, and were
followed by well-received albums with Denon. On these releases, Kenia
sang in English and Portuguese and freely mixed composers like Harold
Arlen and Stevie Wonder, Djavan and Toninho Horta.
On We Go
boasts standards by big names (Gershwin, Lennon and McCartney), works
by lesser known contemporary composers (Romero Lubambo, Luis Simas and
others) and songs written for Kenia by Adolfo and Lins.
Photo Credit: Layne Anderson
Paul Socolow plays bass and Mark Soskin handles keyboards on the new album, with Sandro Albert on guitar, Lucas Ashby on percussion and Adriano Santos on drums. Guitarist Romero Lubambo and harmonicist Hendrik Meurkens make notable guest appearances.
The album came about, recalls Kenia, when she "reconnected
with Socolow and Soskin, who were the original members of my very first
band, Pau-Brazil, and played on her first two albums. When we
met again after nearly two decades, it just felt so right that I
couldn't resist the urge to do another project with them."
album opens with Eric Susoeff's upbeat samba "On We Go," which Kenia
recorded previously with Susoeff's band Salsamba in vocalese form. For
lyrics, "I reached out to the great lyricist Lorraine Feather," says
Kenia. A hip, jazzy version of George Gershwin's "Summertime" follows,
with adroit vocalese by Kenia.
"Que Amor É Esse (What Love is This?)," Kenia comments, "Antonio Adolfo
and I have been friends for many years and I asked if he would write
the music for my lyrics," and the result is a lovely, slow love song.
also contributed the lyrics for two songs by the famed
singer-songwriter Ivan Lins. "Closer to Me" ("Mudança de Ventos"
originally) is in the bossa nova style, with a beautiful intro by
Meurkens. She notes, "I love the melancholic yet sensual sound of his
harmonica-perfect for this song." And about Lins's "Illusion," Kenia
comments, I asked Ivan (Lins) if he would write a song for me and he
shared this jewel."
album closes with a soft acoustic version of the Beatles' "Nowhere
Man." It is a little surprising yet soothing and pleasing to the ear,
like the other songs on On We Go. Once again, the vocalist
has bridged jazz, international pop and Brazilian music and done so
effortlessly, in one of her best works to date.