"Since settling in Washington DC three years ago, Emy Tseng has honed a beguiling sound steeped in jazz and the sensuous rhythms and melodies of Brazil. This impressive debut album is the work of a self-possessed artist with superlative taste, discernment reflected both in her unfailingly exquisite repertoire and her incisive interpretive skills. Exploring songs by Brazil’s most sophisticated composers, including Jobim, Toninho Horta, Caetano Veloso, Baden Powell, Ivan Lins, and rising star Chico Pinheiro, she puts a personal stamp on a treasure trove of tunes. Her Brazilian lens is equally effective on unexpected material, like a beautifully bossa-ized version of Freddie Hubbard’s jazz standard “Little Sunflower” and a wistfully flirtatious reading of Johnny Mercer and Jimmy Van Heusen’s standard “I Thought About You.” She puts her transformative powers to most startling use on a revelatory reinterpretation of the Mamas and the Papas pop classic “California Dreamin’,” a reharmonized arrangement informed more by a bone-deep ache of homesickness than saudade, the delicious sense of longing that defines much of her Brazilian material. She concludes the album with her most exposed piece, her pleasingly pillowy voice soft and insinuating on Bernice Petkere’s “Close Your Eyes,” accompanied only by David Jernigan’s lithe and agile bass.
You can tell a lot about Tseng by the company she keeps. One of the album’s highlights is a jazz-infused arrangement of Ivan Lins early hit “Se Dependesse de Mim” by pianist Marcos Silva, with whom Tseng studied at the Jazzschool in Berkeley. She already had a solid foundation in the Brazilian songbook when she moved back East, so it’s not surprising that DC’s vibrant Brazilian jazz community embraced her. Many of those world-class players are featured on the album, and she credits her collaborators with “pushed me to think of myself at a professional level and to do this album,” Tseng says. “A lot of these musicians have been mentors to me. It was a very old school apprenticeship, sitting in, gigging and learning on the bandstand, getting critiques and recordings to study.” The quality of her ad hoc academy is evident throughout the album, particularly in the consistently inspired arrangements, mostly by Russian guitarist/violinist Matvei Sigalov and bassist Leonardo Lucini, one of three remarkable Rio-born brothers who have energized DC's Brazilian music scene. It’s an environment in which Tseng has thrived, and this captivating project promises more extravagantly beautiful music to come." Andrew Gilbert contributes regularly to the San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Seattle Times and JazzTimes.
Emy Tseng - vocals, Matvei Sigalov - guitar and violin, Roberto Santos - percussion, Alejandro Lucini - drums, David Jernigan - acoustic bass, Wayne Wilentz - keyboards, Rogério Souza - guitar, Andy Connell - clarinet and soprano saxophone, Leonardo Lucini – electric bass, Bruno Lucini - percussion, Lyle Link - tenor saxophone