International musical collective Brasuka released its debut album, A Vida Com Paixao last month. Translated from Portugese, the title means A Life With Passion. The 10-song album is a positive presentation that is unique in all of the best ways. That is due in no small part to the album’s featured musical arrangements, which will be examined shortly. The lyrical themes that accompany the musical content adds to the album’s appeal. They will be discussed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important items and will also be examined later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make A Life With Passion not only a great jazz record, but also an equally enjoyable new World Music offering.
Brasuka’s recently released debut album, A Life With Passion is a strong start for the group, which interestingly enough, is based in Dallas, TX. The note of the band’s “home base” is important because its members come from around the world. Vocalist Rosana Eckert is Mexican American. Percussionist Ricardo Bozas is from Uruguay. Keyboardist/vocalist Denny Robinson is Cuban-born. Drummer/vocalist Jose Aponte is Puerto Rican by birth, and guitarist/vocalist Tom Burchill is from South Dakota. Bassist Brian Warthen is from Dallas, TX. Each member of the collective brings his/her own cultural influences to the album, as is evidenced throughout the album from start to end in each of its featured musical arrangements. Right from the album’s outset, the Latin/Hispanic influences of the noted members is on full display in ‘Samba Jiji.’ That is evident in the use of the Latin percussion alongside the more American easy listening style jazz presented through the piano and bass lines. Meanwhile, Eckert’s vocal performance gives the song an interesting R&B sense alongside the Carnaval-esque whistles and bells. The whole makes for such an interesting presentation and strong start to the album.
From ‘Samba Jiji,’ the group changes things up in the very next song, the album’s title track. This time out, the group moves from the streets of Rio to the reggae sounds made so popular from so many Jamaican artists and acts. The use of the timbales alongside the more familiar reggae style sound and style from the guitars and the vocals (this time provided by another of the group’s members (the liner notes do not point out clearly which male member of the group handles the vocals here) makes for its own interesting musical approach. There is no question that the approach and sound presented here will keep listeners engaged and entertained.
As the album moves into its third song, ‘Road to Hermeto,’ the collective changes things yet again. It moves more in the direction of a light, Latin-tinged easy listening jazz approach and sound. The relaxing composition comes across as being comparable to works from the likes of Wes Montgomery and (to a slightly lesser degree) Pat Metheny.
Brasuka’s members don’t let the noted easy listening/Latin approach taken in ‘Road to Hermeto’stick, too long. Once that arrangement ends, the group takes listeners to Africa in ‘Marakandombe.’ What is interesting here is that even with the African influences, there is also a distinct R&B tinge to the composition. The balance of those influences together makes this song so unique in its own right.
Audiences looking for more get just that in ‘Duesa Do Meu Carnaval,’ the record’s midpoint. Full translation is difficult here. Obviously it has to do with Carnival. The Latin influences are once again on display here, but the arrangement in whole boasts its own unique identity from its counterparts here through its light, fun sound and approach.
The song styles and sound change continually from that point on, with the record culminating on an upbeat, unique take of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The group’s Latin-tinged rock composition is completely unlike the original song even as it stays true to the original song. This take is far more upbeat and rocking. The use of the Hammond B-3 organ against the guitars, fun choral effect, and drums makes for so much enjoyment. This take is proof that sometimes, just sometimes, the remake can be and is better than the original song.
Looking at the whole of this album’s musical arrangements, the whole of that content makes the record’s musical content entirely engaging and entertaining. It leaves audiences feeling that this group’s debut deserves a spot not only among the year’s top new jazz albums, but best World Music albums, too. It is only one of the album’s notable highlights, too. The record’s lyrical themes deserve their own share of attention.
The lyrical themes featured in Brasuka’s debut album are of note because they are just as diverse as the record’s musical arrangements. Said content is outlined in concise fashion in the album’s packaging. For instance, the liner notes point out that ‘Duesa Do Meu Carnaval’ is essentially a love story. That helps to further decipher its English translation. The liner notes state here that the song, “tells the story of a man basking in the beauty of his love as she gracefully dances thesamba. She is the queen of his own personal Brazilian “carnaval.”
On a completely different note, the liner notes state of the late entry, ‘Praia Felix,” that is was inspired by a beach trip by Bozas. “Ricardo was so inspired, he wrote this song about his memories of the trip,” the liner notes point out. So again, here is a theme that is completely opposite from not only the previously examined song, but from everything else featured in the album.
The lyrical theme featured in the album’s title track is yet another standout addition to the album’s lyrical side. The lyrics here are sung in Portugese, but the English explanation in the liner notes help to establish quite the enjoyment in this case. The liner notes state here, “Ricardo’s uplifting lyrics set to Rosana’s folk-style melody invite the listener to ease their sadness and pain by connecting with the world, letting mother nature into their heart, admiring life’s beauty, and living life with passion.” In other words, the song’s theme here is one of promoting personal growth and improving one’s life. It is unlike the themes in the other songs examined here and the rest of the record’s featured works. Ir further shows the noted diversity in the album’s lyrical content and why that content pays just as much into the album’s success as the record’s musical arrangements. Keeping in mind the positive impact of the album’s musical and lyrical content together, that collective content is more than reason enough for audiences to hear the album. When the content is paired with the sequencing thereof, the whole comes together to complete the album and make the album a complete success.
The sequencing of Brasuka’s debut album is important to note because of it s ability to keep the record moving so fluidly. This even as the songs’ stylistic approaches changed from one to the next. Case in point is the change from the album’s opener to its relaxed reggae follow-up. Even though the latter is more relaxed than the prior, the pair still sees the energy flowing so nicely from one to the next. ‘Road to Hermeto’ does much the same even as the group moves back to the group’s more familiar Latin-tinged approach and sound. The most relaxed that the album really gets in its sequencing comes just past the album’s midpoint in the soft, piano-driven, ‘Reina’s Song.’ The subtle use of the piano, drums, and shaker gives the song a sense that anyone looking to set a romantic mood will appreciate. From there, the group gradually and smoothly return to a more energetic approach in ‘Praia Felix’ and carries that energy on to the album’s finale in the already discussed cover of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Loney Hearts Club Band.’ The overall approach shows a clearly thought-out approach to the sequencing. The thought that went into the sequencing ensures audiences’ engagement and entertainment just as much as the record’s content in itself. When that content is considered along with its sequencing, the whole makes the album in whole, a successful start for Brasuka.
Brasuka’s debut album, A Life With Passion, is a record about which many audiences will find themselves passionate. That is because of everything that the record does right. The record’s musical arrangements for instance, take audiences on something of a musical trip around the world. The album’s lyrical themes are diverse in their own right, presenting their own positive topics that will engage and entertain listeners. The content’s sequencing brings everything together and completes the album’s presentation. It shows the time and thought that went into making sure the content keeps listeners engaged and entertained. Each item noted is important in its own right to the album’s presentation. All things considered, they make Brasuka’s debut one of the best of this year’s new jazz offerings and new World Music offerings.
A Life With Passion is available now through Outside In Music. More information on Brasuka’s debut album is available along with all of its latest news at:
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