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Rosa Passos: Amorosa

A piano prodigy, Rosa Passos abandoned the instrument and began to sing when she first heard Brazilian singer and guitarist Joao Gilberto. The Brazilian legend long had a profound effect on Passos's career, so it's only fitting that this CD is a tribute to Gilberto and his 1977 classic "Amoroso." Passos, also a guitarist, puts her own lovely spin on some of that album's best-loved songs, including "Besame Mucho" and the Gershwin standard " 'S Wonderful." The album is even engineered by Al Schmitt, who served in the same capacity on Gilberto's original album. Like her idol, Passos has a soothing swoon of a voice with contrasting flashes of playfulness and pathos that allows these songs to concoct an intoxicating spell, while her guitar playing is frisky, but never intrusive. Most of these songs are gentle ballads, jazzy flourishes, reminiscent of Stan Getz's bossa nova days, but are always percolating just beneath the calm surface. And when Passos gets the opportunity to swing, as on "O Pato,", a song Gilberto recorded with fellow bossa nova master Antonio Carlos Jobim, she's as charming as she is controlled. Another highlight is Jobim's "Chega de Saudade," offered here as a bonus track featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma. (Passos contributed to Ma's 2003 album, "Obrigado Brazil.") Jorge Calandrelli's lush production really shines here, and the song is a perfect coda for this pleasing homage.

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