Sylvia Telles- It Might As Well Be Spring

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Sylvia Telles
"It Might As Well Be Spring"
Dubas Records, Brasil
1966 remastere 2004
Jazz/ Bossa Nova/ Popular

It has been almost 40 years since the great Brasilian Bossa Nova star, Sylvia Telles, or Sylvinha, as she is affectionately known by those who knew her, died in a tragic accident in December of 1966. The Bossa Nova style has always held a popular appeal- its smooth, melodic and sometimes melancholic nature has hypnotized a generation of listeners and artists -spawning numerous covers and updated versions of classics. The man who really started all this- Antonio Carlos Jobim, is considered Brasil's greatest modern composer. His numerous compositions redefined Brasilian music and brought it out to an international stage that has never been duplicated in such a way before or after.

Sylvia, already an accomplished singer in Brasil since the 50's has been the recipient of many of Jobim's greatest hits. In fact, she debuted more of Jobim's songs than anyone else, and the composer himself wrote many of those gems especially for her to record. A great many Bossa Nova legends worked with Sylvia including Robert Menescal who wrote the liner notes for this reissue. In this particular album which was originally released in 1966, Sylvia tackles a number of songs in English including the classic Rodger's and Hammerstein's "It Might As Well be Spring" with perfect ease; there is hardly a trace of an accent. Compared to Astrud Gilberto, another fine Bossa Nova star, Sylvia's voice shines even more. With Astrud, there is a sense of innocence and uncertainty with each note that can be appealing but often becomes rather lackadaisical after repeated listening. Astrud was at best an amateur singer who improved over time to become a true star. Sylvia, on the other hand, was born a singer- her natural confidence as she attacks each note makes the song her very own, as if it was written for her and indeed many were. She certainly does not shy away from bigger, boisterous numbers like "Pardon My English" and the title track. However she can also sing with great emotional control- "But Not for Me", a Gershwin showpiece is handled with great delicacy. In track #3, another Bossa Nova classic, Voce, seems as fresh as it was yesterday. I can think of half a dozen accomplished and remarkable singers in the Bossa Nova style including Ana Caram, and Rosa Passos who can handle the lyrics and music with the very best. Yet Sylvia's control is quite extraordinary- the subtle nuances of an inflection is delivered so naturally and convincing that you know right away that she can sing beyond just Bossa Nova. Her voice can be both powerful and lyrical and also introspective and emotional when needed. The current Brasilian star, Leila Pinheiro, borrows much of this technique from Sylvia and sounds the closest to her.

The instrumental accompaniment is first class with players such as Robert Menescal and Luiz Bonfa contributing on guitars. The album also features a host of other instruments including flute, sax, trumpet, and vibrafone. Nowhere at all did I find this album out of place even in today's modern scene- the music and interpretation sounds very contemporary.

It is a pity that this disc is so short in length- a little bit more than half an hour but it is quite standard during the time it was issued. There are no alternate takes or extra versions. The remastering however is superb- the latest 24 bit treatment is applied including converters and limiters from Sonic Solutions and Weiss. The sound thus is very analog- lots of bloom and detail, and very little background hiss, which sounds very fresh and gives no hint that it was recorded almost 40 years ago!

The image is clearly dilineated and the soundstage quite acceptable. I find little fault with this album other from the fact that I wish there were simply more tracks! It is easily one of my favorite Bossa Nova albums (I have a collection of over 80) and makes me a little sad that such a great talent was snatched away at such an early age- she was only 32 when she died. Imagine what she could have accomplished had she lived longer. This album, Sylvia Telles' last one, is her final testament to her remarkable talent and artistry. A hearty recommendation for anyone who enjoys light jazz classics and of course Bossa Nova.

Music: 10/10
Recording: 9/10

Reviewer-Jason Liu (Jan 2005)