Modlin Center for the Arts presents the Luciana Souza Trio

If Souza’s latest album, Tide, is any indication of how Souza works within small ensembles, the even smaller group of Souza, guitarist Romero Lumbambo, and percussionist Cyro Baptista at the Modlin Center on February 8 should be intimate and extraordinary.

Modlin Center for the Arts is a sponsor of RVAJazzfest. On Monday, February 8, they will be presenting The Luciana Souza Trio featuring Romero Lumbambo on guitar and Cyro Baptista on percussion in Camp Concert Hall. For information on purchasing tickets, call (804) 289-8980 or visit

Luciana Souza
(Verve Music Group, 2009)

If Souza’s latest album, Tide, is any indication of how Souza works within small ensembles, the even smaller group of Souza, guitarist Romero Lumbambo, and percussionist Cyro Baptista should be intimate and extraordinary.

Tide kicks off with a bouncy samba, “Adeus America & Eu Quero Um Samba,” played by the quartet, and Souza throws herself to the foreground with variety in dynamics and rhythmic excitement. Her voice is percussive like Jobim’s fingers on the piano or Caymmi’s plucked guitar strings, and behind her, Lumbambo’s guitar is the rippling undercurrent.

Maybe it’s in anticipation of the Trio show, but to me, it’s Souza, Lumbambo, and Baptista who form the core of even the larger instrumentations on the album. Lumbambo’s energy and Baptista’s subtleties — whether on a triangle or woodblocks or shakers — are perfection. Creative and versatile, Souza is the star.

She is, after all, a Grammy award winning vocalist, and Tide is her fourth Grammy nomination. Since moving to America from her home country of Brazil, she has been a successful jazz singer and was even awarded Female Jazz Singer of the Year in 2005 by the Jazz Journalist Association. Her bachelor and master degrees from Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory led to her teaching at Berklee College of Music and, more recently, the Manhattan School of Music.

Souza’s gentle vibrato follows a lingering straight-tone, like on the lovely harmonically shifting ballad “Love – Poem 65” based on a poem by e.e. cummings. Her tone is smooth like satin on ballads, frolicky on the livelier joints, and always warm. On Paul Simon’s “Amulet,” which is done here as a duet with guitarist Larry Koonse, Souza’s contralto voice goes down, down to rich lows, and ascends to a falsetto that’s suspended over all.

Some of the album’s most thrilling moments are by Souza with Lumbambo, like their unison duet on Garoto’s “Sorriu Para Mim.” Lumbambo uses tons of techniques to set the tone for a piece, like his palm-muting and playing close to the bridge on “Chuva.” When the vivacious guitarist sits out on the album’s ballads, there’s slack to be picked up, but Souza always carries the weight with assertion.

Tide is mostly original material with pop music edge to it. Traces of Brazilian music permeate it all, but songs like “Fire and Wood” are far from bona fide samba such as that represented at the beginning and end of the album. Call a penchant for modernizing a characteristic of Souza, because she has existed for long enough within the realm of Brazilian music to take the liberties she takes here. Whatever choices she makes, they’re destined to work as long as it’s her sweet voice singing them.

Tracks: Adeus America & Eu Quero Um Samba, Fire and Wood, Our Gilded Home, Love – Poem 65, Circus Life, Once Again, Tide, Sorriu Para Mim, Chuva, Amulet.

Personnel: Luciana Souza: voice; Romero Lumbambo: guitar (1,3,5,8-9); Larry Klein: bass; Larry Koonse: guitar (2,4,6-7,10); Larry Goldings: organ, piano, Fender Rhodes, estey, accordion; Vinnie Colaiuta: drums; Cyro Baptista: percussion; Rebecca Pidgeon: vocals.

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Dean Christesen

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