Sarah McKenzie, Without You Review
Sarah McKenzie’s Without You – A Brazilian Jazz Odyssey
by Sylvannia Garutch
Sarah McKenzie’s sixth album, Without You, is an enjoyable and vibrant project based on her profound love for Brazilian music and culture. This project, steeped in Brazilian jazz, showcases McKenzie’s versatility as a pianist and composer and as a singer who navigates the complexities of this genre with grace and innovation. The album blends Antonio Carlos Jobim’s masterpieces, McKenzie’s original compositions, and a selection of other pieces, all executed with her unique, inventive touch.
McKenzie’s ensemble in Without You includes Peter Erskine on drums, Geoff Gascoyne on bass, Rogerio Boccato on percussion, and Bob Sheppard on flute and sax. This assembly of talents brings a dynamic energy to the album, harmonizing beautifully with McKenzie’s artistic vision.
While Without You features nine tracks from the Jobim canon, it transcends the typical tribute album. McKenzie’s interaction with Brazilian legends like Romero Lubambo and Jacques Morelenbaum, the original cellist with Antonio Carlos Jobim, adds historical depth and authenticity to the project. This collaboration, particularly evident in the trio format of “Corcovado (Quiet Nights),” highlights McKenzie’s deep connection to the spirit and legacy of Jobim.
McKenzie’s vocal elegance shines through in tracks like “Corcovado,” where her clear, expressive voice melds seamlessly with Morelenbaum’s cello, creating an enchanting soundscape. Her original compositions, such as “The Voice of Rio” and “Mean What You Say,” showcase her songwriting skills and her ability to capture the essence of Brazilian music.
The album’s arrangement is a highlight, with tracks like “Dindi,” “Bonita,” and “Fotografia” featuring Morelenbaum’s arrangements that blend perfectly with McKenzie’s style. Her original “Quoi, Quoi, Quoi” introduces a playful melody, showcasing her and Sheppard’s skillful improvisation.
Particularly noteworthy is McKenzie’s lyrical addition to Romero Lubambo’s “Without You,” a ballad about lost love, which stands as the album’s title song. The emotional depth in her lyrics, combined with Sheppard’s flute and Rogerio’s percussion, adds layers of color and sentiment.
Her rendition of “The Girl From Ipanema” is a bold reimagining of a classic, offering a fresh perspective to a globally recognized tune. Similarly, “Chega De Saudade (No More Blues)” is presented with a unique twist, blending Portuguese and English lyrics, which adds to its appeal.
Jacques Morelenbaum’s cello work brings a lyrical richness to the album, complementing McKenzie’s vocal and pianistic endeavors. Bob Sheppard’s choice of flute over saxophone in several tracks adds a delicate texture to the ensemble. The percussionists, Erskine and Boccato, and Gascoyne’s bass, provide a solid foundation that enhances the album’s overall sound.
McKenzie’s album Without You is a journey through her personal and musical connections to Brazilian jazz. Her interpretations provide fresh perspectives on compositions, many of which have been relegated to the past. The album, with its outstanding playing and thematic depth, is a respite from the stress-inducing cacophony of modern life, inviting listeners to a world of calm stability and musical serenity.
In sum, Without You is Sarah McKenzie’s soulful ode to Brazilian jazz, and is a must-listen for jazz enthusiasts and anyone seeking a musical escape into the rich and vibrant world of Brazilian rhythms and melodies.