Dário Borim Jr.
Since June, 2008 there has been a new compact disc out there, The Bossa Project, featuring enchanting ways by which music travels deeply into and across cultures. It is truly inspiring when an artist who has proven to be extremely successful with the public and the critics alike takes a chance by landing in considerably new territory. In truth, though, the group Chicago's career and Robert Lamm's particular history of daunting crossovers and fusions of various pop genres and jazz (within and without the band) have subtly prepared us for the unpredictable, for the novelty that is fresh and authentic in its bold flight beyond previously established musical boundaries. Lamm, for those who may not know, has had much to do with the unprecedented trajectory which marks Chicago’s 40 plus years of unrelenting music writing and performance. Among so many other achievements, including the sale of more than 120 million copies of their recordings, the band has been the only U.S. group to visit Billboard ranks for four decades in a row.
Lamm's new release inspires us into that artistic courage while confirming our trust in his ability to breakthrough, to visit, to take risks, to mingle, and to come out anew, more creative and more convincing in his honest approach to making art music. Opening with a fabulous bossa nova rendition of “A Man and a Woman,” the main theme of a French romantic feature movie (directed by Claude Lelouch, 1966) that helped launch the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luís Bonfá and Vinicius de Moraes, The Bossa Project is not just bossa nova, even though bossa is huge anyway, whether one likes it or not. By the way, celebrating 50 years of existence now, this Brazilian style is no passing fad in the sublime hands and horns of a Stan Getz, or the like. It remains an emotionally vibrant and yet gracefully seducing type of musicality with an open door to multiple explorations, including unheard-of mixing with contemporary trends in electronica and so-called world music.
Lamm goes beyond bossa nova by including three remixed tunes or by mixing it with jazz in multiple cuts, especially in “Haute Girl,” co-written with band partner (and arranger) John Van Epps. The Chicago founder artist (actually born in New York City) also encounters and excels in nothing but samba, which is no easy terrain for any musician not born, raised or intensively trained in Brazil. He does it marvelously in Van Epps' tune "Samba in Your Life” or in his own delightful composition, "Send Rain." Since bossa is undeniably rooted in samba, a musical dialog between the two music styles (or two points in the musical development lane that keeps stretching forward in time) can be enchanting in João Gilberto or Rosa Passos, but so is it in "Speak Low," by Kurt Weill and Odgen Nash.
For Brazilian music fans, here is a tip: Lamm's rendition of "Águas de Março" ("Waters of March"), the only original tune from Brazil in the disc, would make Jobim rejoice with us. It is, of course, not your average song. Several years ago Los Angeles Times music critic Leonard Feather argued that Jobim’s stylized samba had the most complex harmonic structure among all popular tunes he knew. He then placed “Waters of March” among the top ten compositions of all times. First released in 1972 and superbly recorded in 1974, by Elis Regina and Tom Jobim, “Águas de Março” was also chosen by influential newspaper Folha de São Paulo’s readers as the most beautiful Brazilian song ever written. Flutist Zé Luis helps, but it is mostly due to Lamm's credit (with his soothing voice naturally resembling that of our beloved Ipanema genius) that an unforgettable, world-class masterpiece continues to entrance us, as it wears new hats and new clothes on international shores from time to time.