Samba Jazz and Love – 2013 – Reviews USA

The country of Brazil has given the world some great music over the years. It has given us Antonio Carlos Jobim, Sergio Mendes, the bossa nova and so much more. You can add to that list, Cristina Braga. Her latest CD is titled Samba Jazz & Love. She sings and plays harp on this project. She is considered one of the most important harpists in Brazil. There is tremendous talent backing her up on the album. There is Jess Sadoc on trumpet and flugelhorn, Arthur Dutra on vibraphone and Joca Moraes on alfaia drums.

Braga has a sultry and smooth voice. Most of the vocals are in Portuguese, with the exception of Rio Paraiso which has been adapted into English. The opening song isLove Parfait which is kind of hypnotic and it got me hooked on the album right away. She does a splendid job on the classic songDesafinado. There are two instrumentals on the album, Chovendo Na Roseira whichBraga displays her vibrant harp playing. The other is Triste de Quem which was a song by the late Moacir Santos. This is an album that will please those who love Brazilian jazz and others who just love good music. This CD is scheduled for release in the United States in June 2013. You can visit Cristina Braga’swebsite, it is


When I am elected Pope or President, the powers here are a push, then the samba will be the global dance of love. Anything on the Enja label is a musical “gimme” with the second release from Cristina Braga no exception. As much diversity as one will find in Brazilian music depending on which part of the country you happen to be staying in, it is the same diversity that makes Samba Jazz and Love such an artistic delight.

Braga surrounds her magical voice with trumpet, flugelhorn, vibraphonist and the spot on nuances of drums and percussion that take what could have been considered an ordinary samba influenced record and instead pushed the project perhaps heights that Braga herself never knew were possible. The use of the harp by Braga fits in well with the compositions by some of Brazils most influential composers. This is Brazilian fusion, the use of such a wide variety and virtuosity of both music and voice occasionally the collective sounds as one. Intimate yet powerful. A subtle rhythmic pulse lends itself to a layer of what is referred to as chamber jazz in the west, emotional and organic yet powerful and dynamic. The shifting harmonics without every losing her lyrical path or intensity is a thing of beauty.

A great deal of thought went into the tunes from such composers as Chico Buarque, Roberto Menescal and Tom Jobim are but a few names to be dropped in this stunning outing. All of the vocals are in Portuguese. I speak no foreign languages with the exception of enough Italian to either get my face slapped or successful purchase a drink for a lady at the bar. Language is no barrier, especially here.

Dark Betty Carter like ballads, virtuoso harp playing on Jobim’s Canta Mais and the Afro Brazilian style with the captivating melodu of Preciso Me all contribute to the success of an emotionally touching and deceptively complex recording.

Brent Black

Did you ever have the pleasure of listening to brazilian jazz, entitled “samba, jazz and love,” played by an extraordinary band, and sung by harpist christina braga. she looks amazing, wearing this thin black cat suit. And everything about the music is gentle magic. as bruce once said–“she’s all that heaven will allow.”

John Shelton Ivany

Cristina Braga is one of those soft Brazilian singers that sound so soothing you just want to get on a plane to Rio immediately. She not only sings well she also plays the harp which is so adaptable to the sensual rhythms, and is backed beautifully by Ricardo Medeiros bass, Jessé Sadoc trumpet and flugelhorn, Joca Moraes drums and Arthur Dutra vibraphone. The enja CD is aptly named Samba, Jazz and Love. All 11 tracks exude taste, and a loving feeling and includes a few songs you‘ll know such as “O Barquinho“, “Desafinado“ and “Só Danco Samba“. The only instrumental track is “Chovendo Na Encontrar“ which allows the band to display their jazz chops. This is a CD to sit back and relax or

Cristina Braga is a versatile Brazilian harpist who has played with symphony orchestras as well as pop musicians. For this album she assembled an unusual line-up, including Ricardo Medeiros as musical director and bassist, plus trumpet doubling flugelhorn, vibes and percussion. Odd as this group may appear, their instruments merge beautifully together in a programme devoted mainly to bossa novas.

Besides playing the harp with captivating delicacy, Cristina also sings sweetly, although her voice often sinks to a whisper and her intonation tends to be unclear. This makes the singing difficult to decipher, especially as most of the vocals are in Portuguese. Even the familiar Desafinado which she sings in English is hard to catch. That is one of four songs on the album composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim: the others are So Danço Samba, Canta Mais and the instrumental Chovendo Na Roseira.

Because the lyrics are vague, you may find yourself ignoring them and simply enjoying the rich mix of the music. You might expect the trumpet to overwhelm the rest of the group but Jess‚ Sadoc plays with admirable restraint, fitting in well with the other musicians. Cristina plays some excellent solos, and her harp blends comfortably with Arthur Dutra’s vibes. The music is firmly anchored by Ricardo Medeiros’s bass and Joca Moraes’s placid drumming.
When I reviewed an album by Carol Robbins, I mentioned that there are few harpists brave enough to play jazz on this complex instrument. Now we can add Cristina Braga to this select body.

Tony Augarde

I was more than a little surprised in noting Cristina Braga’s Samba, Jazz and Love being issued on the Enja label. It’s head honcho, Matthias Winckelmann, has been a very interesting character in the business and never compromises on his wide-ranging aesthetics travelling from trad jazz to world strains to outside musics. When you buy an Enja disc, you’re in for an interesting and quality listen no matter what it’s genre, even when things get hectic and spacey…and, trust me, some of Enja’s stuff can get pretty woolly. But singer Cristina Braga is far from those lights, instead a traditionalist who refines and embellishes The Great Latinate Songbook. Not only that, but she plays a harp and chose to include vibes in her backing band. In fact, that very factor—the selection of who and what would grace this breathily luminous disc—is sublime: harp, vibes, double-bass, trumpet & flugelhorn, alfaia drums & tambourin. Just that and nothing more.

Braga, sitting in a spartan but quietly lush environment, is the very essence of soft, romantic, breathy sensuality unencumbered by the thousand and one soap opera complications modern humanoids cherish so neurotically (ever notice how the modern love song is a bit too frequently a good deal more pathological than erotic?). This alone is refreshing and perhaps why she chose the ensemble as she has, for a smoother than silk, gently flowing characteristic that nonetheless harbors intriguing little pools of slow vivacity. Canta Mais brings unexpected airs of Chet Baker in Jesse Sadoc’s horn lines, offset first by Arthur Dutra’s Gary Burton-esque vibes and then Braga’s harp. But my favorite cut is the instrumental Triste de Quem, 7:16 of pure understated bliss. Braga’s voice is always enticing and balmily soporific, but she and the band hold forth very nicely indeed whether she’s encanting or not.

Samba, Jazz and Love is the perfect companion to all those brilliant Braziliana CDs the Zoho label has been issuing for years, a disc that captures every essence of the now rococo styles that continue to attract ears old and young. It’s been many years since Antonio Carlos Jobim and his compeers hit the global music scene, but the effects and refinements of that auspicious event continue to develop and broaden while, interestingly, ever re-investing the baseline as having been born in perfection. One of the playbook’s enduring legends is Astrud Gilberto, and it’s to her voice that many identify the vogue of the movement (Girl from Ipanema was, after all, the hit that woke planet Earth up to what was cooking down south of the equator). Listening to Cristina Braga reminds all of us why that was so.

Mark S. Tucker

CHRISTINA BRAGA/Samba, Jazz and Love: Crazy in the head might mean crazy in bed but Braga’s voice and instrumentation on this set exemplify the languid sexuality that can keep vanilla sex quite satisfying with merely the occasional addition of some sprinkles. Sounding at one with her vibes player, this Portuguese set of Brazilian tunes by some of the land’s most august composers hums along nicely since gringo’s don’t know most of the songs. Even when a familiar Jobim tune is tossed in, it’s been reconfigured in such a way that it’s familiarity doesn’t ruin any moods that might have been building if you are using this for any enjoyment other than listening in your car. Thoughtful without over thinking itself, this is a sexy set that doesn’t need pyrotechnics to kindle a fire. Hot stuff, Brazilian style.

Chris Spector, Editor and Publisher

CD Review:

Being the foremost harpist in Brazil is about as unusual a distinction for a musician as being a classical harmonica player anywhere (a la John Sebastian Sr.). Cristina Braga is indeed Brazil’s foremost harpist, and she has been an ambassador in that regard both for her country and her instrument. She’s crossed genre lines to perform ith classical and popular artists alike (both Sting and his Police cohort Andy Summers have employed her services), with symphony orchestras and in various competitions, including one held in 2009 by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, after which she was hired by the University as Professor of Harp. Her discography numbers 16 albums, released both independently and lately through the Enja label. The captivating Samba, Jazz and Love is the latest of those Stateside releases, and here’s hoping it’s followed by many more. Singing in English and Portuguese (with English translations in full or in part in the liner booklet to give listeners at least the gist of the song), Ms. Braga follows in the seductive footsteps of her illustrious, alluring Brazilian predecessor Astrud Gilberto, although the former’s voice is even more feathery than the latter’s, amazingly enough.

David McGee

CRISTINA BRAGA/Samba, Jazz and Love: Crazy in the head might mean crazy in bed but Braga’s voice and instrumentation on this set exemplify the languid sexuality that can keep vanilla sex quite satisfying with merely the occasional addition of some sprinkles. Sounding at one with her vibes player, this Portuguese set of Brazilian tunes by some of the land’s most august composers hums along nicely since gringo’s don’t know most of the songs. Even when a familiar Jobim tune is tossed in, it’s been reconfigured in such a way that it’s familiarity doesn’t ruin any moods that might have been building if you are using this for any enjoyment other than listening in your car. Thoughtful without over thinking itself, this is a sexy set that doesn’t need pyrotechnics to kindle a fire. Hot stuff, Brazilian style.

O’s Notes: Cristina Braga sings and plays harp in front of the Modern Samba Quartet with Jessé Sadoc (t), Ricardo Medeiros (b), Joca Moraes (d) and Arthur Dutra (vibes). This is an unusual combination and their approach is different as well. Braga’s soft and airy vocals are complemented by the instruments in a relaxing bossa nova. Medeiros’ arrangements tame the classics recoloring the canvas with pastels. “Sõ Danço Samba” is among the best.

D. Oscar Groomes

O’s Place Jazz Magazine

She puts music’s soul into her harp interpretation, giving the world jazz scene a wonderful musical contribution. This time, she and her band reach a great point of passionate instrumental playing of samba and jazz, especially when the vibraphone and her harp interchange notes with a profound background composed of a double bass and a trumpet.

Cristina Braga is an innovative musician because she has taken the difficult road to play an instrument that is unconventional for jazz and bossanova, and this is what makes her work more exciting. In this album, she plays the harp as if it was made originally for jazz music. She sounds very fresh and natural giving us poignant harp solos like those produced from any string instrument.
This harpist knows how to play with technique. Her studies, experiences and awards have been related to classical and folkloric music for many years. The opportunity to play with a variety of musicians and bands like Marisa Monte, Lenine and Nando Reis, and Andy Summer (guitarist of The Police) have given her the chance to explore the rich language of traditional and modern rhymes. The quality in Braga’s work is the great mixture of sophisticated and marvelous elements like her velvety and sultry voice, her harp’s style, and the sound of each of her band musicians. This mixture becomes a soft whisper, almost a murmur that you will not want to stop listening to.

Oscar Montagut

Singers Deborah Latz and Cristina Braga succeed in creating albums that work well in their strict definitions. Latz’s “Fig Tree” is a straight-ahead, no-fooling jazz album in which she presents classics ranging from Randy Weston’s “Hi-Fly” to George Gershwin’s “S’Wonderful.” She adds three originals to this collection and gets great support from a crew including guitarist John Hart and reed star Peter Apfelbaum. Her contralto voice is strong, and she attacks each tune with enthusiasm that includes a little scat-singing. Meanwhile, Braga offers a good Brazilian collection on “Samba, Jazz and Love” in which she sings some of the all-time favorites including “Desafinado” and “So Danco Samba.” But the album’s strength is in the shape of its quintet that is built around her harp and Arthur Dutra’s vibes and features tasteful work from Jesse Sadoc on trumpet and flugelhorn. On harp. Braga stays in the background on most of the vocals, but on two instrumentals she creates a piano-like sound. The album has a flavor mindful of the heyday of Brasil ’66.

Bob Karlovits

This CD is a uniquely arranged selection of the crème de la crème of Sambas, but performed by Cristina Braga on vocals and harp, as well as the Modern Samba Quartet, on bass, trumpet/flugelhorn, drums/tambourin, and vibraphone. This is a CD I had to listen to twice, it’s so effervescent and extraordinary. Ms. Braga sings with feathery lightness and tonal perfection. There’s pure joy in each note.

Notable tracks:

#2 – O Barquinho – Composed by Menescal/Bôscoli. This track, that could lullaby the listener to blissful reverie, features Ms. Braga on whispery vocals and harp, supported by Arthur Dutra’s vibes and Jessé Sadoc’s flugelhorn. The music is a luscious feast of elegance, with the vibes soulfully sultry. Bass and brushes infuse an undulating rhythm that swoons of Sao Paulo.

#3 – Samba e Amor – Composed by Buarque. This very danceable track features the vibes and a muted trumpet, in a lively Samba, sung with eloquence, by Ms. Braga. There’s some fervor and heat here, with contagious melody and iridescent harmonies. The brilliance of Ms. Braga’s recording is taking standards from the genre and making them singular and distinctive.

#7 – Só Danço Samba – Composed by T. Jobim/Moraes. Ms. Braga’s harp is featured on this track both in sumptuous backup rhythms and in leading the animated theme. This is another danceable track, with muted trumpet, impassioned percussion, and vivacious vocals. Ricardo Madeiros, on bass, has a duo riff with Joca Moraes on percussion, adding intensity to the momentum.

#9 – Canta Mais – Composed by T. Jobim/Moraes. Ms. Braga’s voice is fully fused on this track as an additional instrument, with bits of song attached to harp and vibraphone, as the melody is filtered through a mellow glow. The bass is particularly refined, adding earthiness and tempo, while percussion and muted brass drift through.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower

Music. Where some lead, we follow. That is, if we like what we hear. With vocalist-harpist Cristina Braga, I most certainly like. At least I like her album Samba, Jazz and Love (Enja 9593 2). I like her singing, which has that quiet sweet intensity that has some relation to Astrud Gilberto, though clearly this is Cristina in her own voice, but with that gentle quality. She lays back a tad on the beat which gives the delivery a pronounced swing. And I like her harp. I generally love the harp anyway but she really can play (what she chooses to show us of it, this isn’t a harp showcase per se); it’s a beautiful sound she gets in this set of samba-bossa classics and some lesser known but all worthwhile. And I like the band, which is I believe all-Brazilian, with some nice vibes, trumpet, contrabass, and drums. By the way that bassist, Ricardo Medeiros, is the musical director and has no doubt much to do with the arrangements, which are quite nice.

So she leads, I follow. I mean that. To me good Brazilian samba jazz is one of the joys of life. (Of course there are many joys, but it is one.) Combine a beautiful set of songs, a beautiful voice, a loosely swinging band and that harp playing of hers, and you have something. Really something good. Just get it. You’ll get it.

Perhaps because of her harp, the one word that seems best to describe the music on singer/harpist Cristina Braga’s new albumSamba, Jazz and Love is angelic. Her voice is soft and sweet, and if the heavenly seraphim song doesn’t sound like a track from this album, something is amiss in the upper spheres. Put together Braga’s vocals with the trumpet of Jessé Sadoc and Arthur Dutra’s vibraphone in a program of Brazilian music and you’re on a stairway to secular heaven.

For variety, there are some jauntier numbers like “Só Danço Samba” with a real jazz flavor and the album’s last number, “Desde de Que O Samba Ė Samba,” but for Cristina Braga it seems lyricism is always dominant.

While most of the tunes on the set are sung in Portuguese, she does sing Antonio Carlos Jobim’s classic “Desafinado” and two other pieces, the album’s opener “Love Parfait” and the syncopated “Rio Paraiso,” in English. This last is heard in a translation by the singer and her bassist/musical director Ricardo Medeiros.

The harp, horn, vibraphone combination produces some truly ethereal effects. The opening of “Triste de Quem,” the first of the album’s two instrumentals, is electric. Medieiros adds his only bass solo. Jobim’s “Chovendo Na Roseira,” the other instrumental, makes it clear that these are also musicians who can swing when they want to. The interplay between the three is always effective, making these instrumentals some of the highlights of the disc.

Jack Goodstein

Music Reviews: Cristina Braga – ‘Samba, Jazz and Love,’ Annie Kozuch – ‘Mostly Jobim’