In Love Again
Liner note by Nobel prize-winning author, KAZUO ISHIGURO
Why listen to Stacey Kent rather than to Ella, say, or Billie or the other great singers from the swing era? A friend asked me this recently and my initial response was one of irritation. ‘That’s like asking: why Toni Morrison rather than Henry James? They’re wonderful artists from different eras and it’s daft choosing between them.’ But I suppose my friend deserved a better answer. He was wondering, I’d guess, if a young contemporary artist of today could work authentically in a style of music that had had its heyday over half a century ago.
Having thought further, I realise that for me it’s partly the very fact of her being contemporary that makes Stacey special. My encounter with the first Stacey Kent album in 1997 was a revelation precisely because I was hearing reinterpreted – without any sense of pastiche – those great swing era songs in a voice at once steeped in tradition but somehow fresh and unmistakably that of an urbane woman of today. She, and her sublime small band, were revealing to me a hitherto unsuspected universality in those old songs. They were demonstrating how that treasure trove from the past could more than convincingly express the yearnings, hopes and broken dreams of men and women in today’s confused, fragmented world.
But maybe a simpler answer to my friend would have been that Stacey Kent is a singer to match the greats of the past, with an unusual power to hold your attention and control your emotions from the first note.
Why? For one thing, Stacey’s singing never lets us forget these songs are about people. Her protagonists come to life so fully in her voice you sometimes have to remind yourself the CD has no visuals. She has, in fact, much in common with today’s finest screen actors who, assured of the camera’s ability to pick out detail, portray complex shades of personality, motive and feeling through subtle adjustments of face and posture.
Like them, Stacey has complete mastery of her tools, but hardly allows us to be aware of them. In song after song, we find a route to the emotional heart of the music without first having to admire her technique.
It’s been said that one of the most appealing qualities of Stacey’s style is that it is ‘conversational.’ I’d go one step further. She conveys as well as any other singer I’ve heard the sense of a person talking to herself; the faltering hesitancies, the exuberant rushes of inner thought. There is invariably a lover being addressed, but in Stacey’s readings that lover is never in the room. The lyric is what the singer wishes to say, or wishes she had said. We’re witnessing a private moment.
No surprise then to find on this latest album emotions being portrayed never in primary colours, but always subtly shaded. These thirteen Richard Rodgers songs move between the themes of love found and love lost. But it’s never as straightforward as sunshine followed by dark despair. She may convey wonderfully the giddy intoxication of love, and yet she does sound, well, intoxicated – and vulnerable; like a sophisticate who’s suddenly left herself open to naiveté. Then every three or four tracks – as though to confirm our fears – we discover her disappointed and let down, singing something like IT NEVER ENTERED MY MIND or EASY TO REMEMBER. But what’s curious and unique in these exquisitely rendered ballads (and what makes her distinct from Billie Holiday, say, or that other fine singer of her generation, Diana Krall) is the absence of bitterness. What we get is someone going over the broken pieces of her life, trying to coax from somewhere a little courage and perspective. Here’s a great jazz diva of our age.
Kazuo Ishiguro, Author, July 2002
Liner note by writer, ALEX BEAUMONT
“A vida é a arte do encontro” – Vinícius De Moraes
“Life is the art of the encounter.”
Seldom has the great Brazilian poet’s philosophy been more fully realised than in this musical encounter between Stacey Kent and Roberto Menescal.
Roberto Menescal, began his musical journey in the 1950s as a student in Rio De Janeiro. An admirer of the exotic sounds of American Jazz and popular song, one of his earliest inspirations was the recording of Cry Me A River by Julie London and the great guitarist, Barney Kessel.
Stacey Kent, for whom jazz and the Great American Songbook was the soundtrack to her American adolescence, viewed Brazilian music with much the same curious fascination as Menescal had viewed jazz a generation earlier.
Each went on to become an important figure in their own sphere. Menescal, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2014 Latin Grammy Awards, is one of Brazil’s most important 20th Century musical figures. A composer, guitarist, founding father of Bossa Nova, record producer, his importance to Brazilian music from the late 1950s to the present day can hardly be overstated.
Kent began her musical career as a singer of American standards, Bossa Nova and Chanson before broadening her repertoire to include originals penned by her husband Jim Tomlinson and novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. Bringing her distinctly personal and emotionally intelligent interpretations to a vast repertoire, she has gained a legion of fans for her “less is more” approach.
Menescal’s first encounter with Stacey’s singing came via DJ, Bob Tostes, in 2000. An aficionado of jazz singers, Tostes made a compilation of his favourites for Roberto and his wife, Yara. For them, one track stood out; Stacey’s recording of Gershwin’s Isn’t It A Pity. In it, Menescal recognised a quality that resonated with him; an emotional depth expressed with a quiet, undramatic intensity. This same quality was shared by some of the great Brazilian singers with whom he had worked, like Nara Leão. Who was this American singer? Menescal made it his business to search out more recordings. He became such a fan of Kent that whenever he was producing a new young singer, he would give them a selection of Kent’s recordings with the instruction, “listen to this and then we’ll talk”.
For Stacey, a fan of Brazilian music since her youth, Roberto Menescal was just a name on an album sleeve. The idea that they knew of each other had never occurred to either of them.
Fast forward to 2011 and the Show De Paz, in Rio De Janeiro, a celebration of the 80th Anniversary of the statue of Christ The Redeemer on Corcovado. Stacey had been invited by Marcos Valle to sing his classic Samba De Verão. This was itself a meeting that would result in an enduring musical and personal friendship that has yielded a live album, many concerts and a DVD in the making.
It was after her performance with Marcos that the encounter that led to this recording took place. In all the bustle backstage neither Stacey nor Menescal had seen the running order or artist list. Menescal was in the wings when Stacey spotted Roberto, guitar in hand. On the verge of stage-struck, she could only say “Roberto!” Menescal, recognising Stacey from the covers of his cherished CDs reciprocated, “Stacey!”
A hurried exchange of addresses sealed the friendship. Subsequent meetings in Brazil and a regular exchange of emails and telephone calls allowed the new friends to make up for the years already lost. For two artists of such remarkable empathy and mutual admiration, a recording project was the next natural step.
For Menescal, it was the chance to realise a life’s ambition of recording an album of American standards. But beyond this, it was to be recorded with his favourite standards singer, Stacey Kent. For Kent, it was the chance to work with an idol and one of the founding fathers of a genre that has had such an impact on her own musical aesthetic.
With Jim Tomlinson on saxophone and alto flute and Jeremy Brown on bass, this intimate collection of songs is something of a homecoming for both Stacey and Roberto. For Stacey, it is a return to the Great American Songbook and for Roberto, it is a return to the jazz roots that inspired that young guitarist in the heyday of the Bossa Nova years.
The choice of Tenderly as the title track could scarcely be more apposite. Its first recording in 1947 is by Brazilian crooner, Dick Farney. Accompanied by the Paul Baron Orchestra, it is the perfect expression of the policy of boa vizinhança (neighbourliness) that characterised US/Brazilian cultural relations in the 1930s and 40s. That same boa vizinhança runs right through this album.
And so, that chance encounter in 2011 has resulted in some of the most distinctively focused and beautiful work of each of these artists’ careers. It represents so much more than just the art of meeting. It is also truly the meeting of art.
The Changing Lights
Liner note by RICHARD ROBERTS
The critic Gilles Tordjman once wrote that Brazil was not a nation, but “a region of the heart, where everything seems to ring to the tune of a stronger and more accurate vibration”. This is a sentence that STACEY KENT could no doubt make her own.
At the age of 14, the American singer discovered the endless charms of the album, Getz / Gilberto, an historic encounter of jazz and bossa nova, after which nothing would ever be the same. Over the course of a musical journey that has wandered freely in the open spaces of jazz and song, Brazil became, in her eyes, more than a country: a kind of internalized poetic horizon, a chosen land on an intimate scale, adjusted to the proportions of her soul, her singing and her inspiration. Whether she literally celebrates them through covers of Tom Jobim, Sergio Mendes or Luiz Bonfá, or whether she summons the spirit through the finesse of her performances, Stacey Kent has never loosened the emotional ties that bind her to Brazilian music. An eternal student, this well-informed polyglot, with a degree in comparative literature, has followed her passion to the point of learning the Portuguese language and taking an interest in the cultural and political history of the giant auriverde.
It is this passion, made both of depth and lightness, that pervades her tenth album. The Changing Lights is not “Stacey Kent’s Brazilian record”. It is more a recreational break or a sound postcard than a stuffy exercise of style. In collaboration with her partner and husband, the English saxophonist, composer and arranger, Jim Tomlinson, Stacey Kent simply displays all the sensitive qualities of a musician for whom Brazil represents, precisely and foremost, “a region of the heart”.
To do this, the singer, who has lived between England and Colorado for the past two decades, felt no need to go to a studio in Rio de Janeiro. In Sussex, where the recording sessions for The Changing Lights were held, she surrounded herself with her close musical guard – Jim Tomlinson on tenor and soprano saxophones and flute, Graham Harvey on piano, Jeremy Brown on bass, John Parricelli on guitar, Matt Home and Josh Morrison on drums. Roberto Menescal, the legendary Brazilian guitarist and composer, also lent his talent to two tracks on the album. In this good company, she was immersed in the turbulent and welcoming water of a feeling that is very familiar to her: the sumptuously volatile mixture of happiness and sadness that answers to the bittersweet name, saudade. “Especially on this record, and in my musical world in general, this word is my cornerstone”, says the singer. “It has no equivalent in other languages, and Brazilian music has given it a unique flavour. But what it refers to is a universal feeling, which belongs to the human condition: a vague nostalgia directed towards what one has lost as well as towards what one has never had nor experienced. Here, I am thinking about the lyrics of the song, Samba Saravah (Samba de Benção): – Mas pra fazer um samba com beleza, é preciso um bocado de tristeza. But to make a beautiful samba, a little sadness is needed. -That is the atmosphere that we wanted to create on The Changing Lights; on that spiritual and emotional level, this is a profoundly Brazilian record.”
In fact, the album, from start to finish, is infused with a melancholy wavering between light and dark: freed of the burden of pathos and pomposity, this chiaroscuro marries, with a rare accuracy, all the sparkle and heartbreak of real life. Opening with a light reinterpretation of This Happy Madness, an adaptation of Estrada Branca, by Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes, the album continues with The Summer We Crossed Europe in the Rain: an original song that evokes a nomadic and romantic existence in light touches, and whose harmonic, melodic and poetic texture, draws a musical fabric tailored to the voice of Stacey Kent. By themselves, these first two tracks, which seem to answer and embrace each other like lifelong lovers, announce the wonder that is at work in the album. The Changing Lights is indeed the meeting place where standards from the Brazilian repertoire and compositions by Jim Tomlinson dissolve any spatial and temporal gaps: in the miraculous moment of playing and singing, we hear them link intense relationships of complicity. “Searching for songs that work together and that, once united, roll out all their magic: that is one of my greatest pleasures, confides Stacey Kent. The joy that The Changing Lights gives me, owes much to the balance that we found between compositions and covers: there is a sort of winding movement between them, as if they belonged to each other.”
This beautiful alchemy occurs throughout the record. The palpitations of the evergreen One Note Samba (Tom Jobim/Newton Mendonça) resonate in the lively and mischievous virtuosic passages of Waiter, oh Waiter. The notes showering down in Mais Uma Vez, a chronicle of a love lost and then re-found, resonate, like a troubling extension of harmonies descending from another famous standard by the Jobim/de Moraes duo, How Insensitive – a moving song about break-up and regret that Stacey Kent has adorned with a new quivering exquisiteness. The ethereal melodies of Like a Lover (Dori Caymmi) and The Face I Love (Marcos Valle) appear to grant the wishes made a little further along by Chanson Légère, in which Stacey Kent, in the French lyrics, dreams of a refrain that floats “like a soap bubble, a cloud of cotton, a butterfly wing”. At the heart of the album is an instrumental version of O Bêbado e a Equilibrista by João Bosco that, like the waters of a miraculous spring, empties into the crystalline wave of Smile by Charlie Chaplin.
These interactions and connections could not have happened without the high artistic standards that presided over the conceptualisation of The Changing Lights. On the musical side, the writing and arrangements by Jim Tomlinson, weave a web of infinite delicacy, teeming with details that never alter its fluidity or consistency. “I wrote for the group as if it were a guitar”, he said, to explain the typical Brazilian rhythmic and harmonic richness that emerges when listening to the album, as well as the sense of unity and harmony that emanates here from the ensemble. Roberto Menescal also contributes to the guitaristic sound of the album with his special arrangement of his own 1960 classic, O Barquinho, as well as adding his own telling touches to Tomlinson’s A Tarde.
On the poetic side, Stacey Kent was able to count on quills that know all about the subtleties of her sensitivity. A long-time accomplice and admirer, the writer, Kazuo Ishiguro, author of The Summer We Crossed Europe in the Rain and Waiter, oh Waiter, also provides a sublime impressionistic internal monologue, a dive into slowness, haunting and sensual swirls of memory, with the title song, The Changing Lights. As well as Mais Uma Vez, the poet, Antonio Ladeira, who Stacey Kent and Jim Tomlinson met at Middlebury College, where they were introduced to the delights of the Portuguese language, penned A Tarde: a variation on the themes of separation, absence, memory and ultramodern loneliness, seen through the eyes of a woman contemplating the city where her childhood sweetheart also lives. Bernie Beaupère, who has already written for Stacey’s album, Raconte-moi, completes this circle of inspired poets with the lyrics for Chanson Légère. Of these writers, Stacey Kent says: “They are much more than songwriters offering lyrics: when they write, it is my voice and sensibility they have in mind. Thanks to them, I can truly express myself in the performance, and feel fully inside the songs.”
With The Changing Lights, Stacey Kent attains an even higher level of accuracy of tone and delicacy of expression. In tune with the group that accompanies her, and never succumbing to the temptation of grandstanding or superfluousness, she reaches new heights of calm, intensity and clarity in this vocal art that distinguishes her from many of her contemporaries. “I’m still working on my voice, she confides with disarming humility. I try to sing the best that I can, simply because it’s my profession and my reason for being. It so happens that I am a very intense person, and I cannot help but approach music that way. But I do not do so in an outrageous or extroverted manner: waves of emotions, whether joy or sadness, I express them calmly because I want to tell the stories that communicate them in the best way possible. Yet there are many kinds of stories in The Changing Lights: therefore, it was important to deliver the songs as well as I can.”
That is why the voice of Stacey Kent, at the height of her abilities of suggestion, reveals itself here more than ever in the magnificent and complex nakedness of her expression. Under the quivering surface of her singing, there are a multitude of currents and forces, a permanent ebb and flow of feelings, murmurs that are in turn anxious and serene, mixed up and calm, which she is able to harmonize like no one else.
Jim Tomlinson says, in paraphrasing Kazuo Ishiguro’s comments, “Stacey’s style reminds me of the best film actors who, on camera, develop a very different style to stage actors, who are still required to project their voices and gestures in order to be express themselves across the space of the theatre. In film, an actor can do a lot with very little, whether in terms of expression, gesture, inflection or tone of voice. With Stacey, I believe that we create a style of music in the same way, where even the smallest gestures have great significance.”
It is there, in the richness of these nuances, that open onto the vast dizziness of our deepest feelings, that The Changing Lights reveals itself as much more than an album. For those who have the good fortune to discover it, it very quickly becomes “a region of the heart” for them too recognizable and inhabitable by all human beings endowed with emotions.
Breakfast on the Morning Tram
Liner note by Washington Post journalist, BOB KAISER
What happens when established artists grow out of their old skin? Put this disc into your music player and find out.
Breakfast On The Morning Tram is the musical equivalent of a growth spurt. With the important assistance of Kazuo Ishiguro—one of our finest novelists, who can now also call himself a serious lyricist—Stacey Kent and her permanent sidekick/producer/music director Jim Tomlinson have moved to a new place. The disc in your hands, Stacey’s first for Blue Note, marks the spot.
One easy way to describe the change is to note what is not on this record: no Gershwin or Porter, no Rogers or Berlin, no Carmichael or Ellington. The Great American Songbook that has been the source of most Stacey Kent material since her recording career began a decade ago is represented here only by three songs out of a dozen. Yet all the songs on this album are cousins of the great Songbook songs—they all “seem to inhabit the same musical world,” as Jim Tomlinson put it to me. They all tell stories, usually wistfully, something Stacey loves to do; they all make you think about love and loving; they all (if my experience is any indicator) stick in your head after just a few listenings. Most important, they all help Stacey show off her very best stuff. No Stacey Kent fan will be shocked by this record—they are much more likely to be delighted by it. She has never sounded better.
Four of the tracks offer compelling evidence that Jim Tomlinson can write songs, something he has never done before. Producing their own material has been on Stacey’s and Jim’s agenda for some time now. Their friend Ishiguro offered to try his hand at writing lyrics, which in this collaboration came first. While skiing in Colorado, Jim, with Stacey’s help and encouragement, wrote four memorable tunes to the words Ishiguro had written. I have no idea whether these songs have the staying power of the classics, but to my ear every one of them is entirely original, lovely and surprising. Ishiguro’s lyrics are intriguing: a little mysterious, sometimes a little weird (a hotel made of ice?), but unfailingly intriguing. Three of the four involve traveling and all involve romantic mysteries. All have a contemporary flavor; no one is going to think these lyrics were written in the 1930s. Yet they don’t sound like anything else I’ve heard in the 21st Century, either.
Stacey sings three songs here in French, two lesser-known love songs by the late Serge Gainsbourg and a famous samba from the 1966 French film A Man and a Woman, written by the Brazilians Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes, with a French lyric by Pierre Barouh. If you’re old enough to remember the movie, you’ll recognize the song at once. Stacey majored in modern European languages in college, and has the gift for pronouncing a foreign tongue that sometimes accompanies a perfect musical ear, so I defy her French fans to call this an American accent. It’s French. Another Brazilian represented here is Sergio Mendez, whose So Many Stars, with lyrics by Marilyn Bergman, sounds like a Songbook tune but is probably too young (1968) and has too mixed a parentage to qualify as one.
Stacey sings one Fleetwood Mac song from the 1970s written by Stevie Nicks, Landslide, and makes it her own. And then there are three from the Songbook: Heardhearted Hannah, Never Let Me Go and It’s A Wonderful World. On the latter, Stacey quietly enters a world previously inhabited only by Louis Armstrong. By my lights her version is as powerful as Satchmo’s.
But there is more on this album than songs. Stacey has a new band, and it is remarkable. A Stacey Kent concert has always been a jam session; in performance her musicians have always had more space and time than on her records, and the interaction between musicians and singer have always reminded me of a great quintet or sextet at work. There is more of that jazz on this record than on any previous one, I think, and the new players are splendid. There is a lot of music here to take in. An added treat is the guitar work of John Parricelli, who contributes memorably here on six different guitars. “With the new band a new world of possibilities has opened up and invited us to go exploring,” Stacey told me. So they went, to wonderful effect.
The last word should be Stacey’s: “I wanted to reveal more of myself on this album, in a way that I hadn’t fully before.” Did she succeed? I think so. Now you decide.
Close Your Eyes
Liner note by radio broadcaster, trumpeter, comedian, writer, HUMPHREY LYTTELTON
It was one day in 1996 when a demo cassette turned up in my BBC post-bag, one of many that I receive in my capacity of jazz radio presenter. The singer’s name, Stacey Kent, was new to me, and the cassette sat on my desk for weeks taunting my conscience until, faced with a long journey to some far-flung gig, I gathered it up with a variety of other tapes and transferred it to my car. On the road, it happened to be the first tape I picked up from the heap on the passenger seat — and the last. The singing held me riveted for the rest of the outgoing journey and throughout the return trip the next day, and I included a track in my radio programme at the first opportunity. Now the invitation to write a note for this debut CD calls upon me to analyse the causes of this rush on enthusiasm to the head.
Let’s start with the “feel”. The great cornettist Ruby Braff has said that one of the most important requirements in jazz performance is “adoration of the song” — and few musicians caress a standard tune with more palpable adoration than he. Stacey Kent grew up in New York, listening to the music of Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole and the jazz masters of the Swing Era. Before she ever thought of adopting a singing career, she had come to love the repertoire of American popular song, much of which had been established decades before she was born. And it shows in every note she sings.
The next stage in my analysis leads me to “style”, that elusive quality which identifies an artist’s handling of the subject matter. Many popular songs through the ages have survived as “standards” largely through the attention of jazz or jazz-influenced performers. The way in which Louis Armstrong in the Thirties rephrased contemporary Tin Pan Alley tunes revealed them in them subtlety, vitality and depth not to be discerned in the stilted symmetry of the publisher’s song sheets. To appreciate Stacey’s command of style, listen to Day In – Day Out and hear the natural ease with which she varies the recurring pattern of the song’s title. Then go on to the vivacious It’s Delovely and marvel at the way the melody is thrown to-and-fro across the beat without sacrificing one syllable of the essential words.
Swing, elegant variation, impeccable pitch and diction — these are all stock in trade of an accomplished jazz singer, and to combine them all is an achievement in itself.
What makes Stacey Kent so remarkable is her “sound” — the word usually applied to jazz instrumentalists to encompass tone quality and the manipulation of it. The voice itself is an impressive instrument, in pitch and timbre, coming closer to Mildred Bailey than to her acknowledged idols Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Strong and clear, it has the invigorating tang of Vermouth.
The use to which Stacey puts this voice is richly varied and highly original. Most idiosyncratic is her use of vibrato, an element which, whether in singing or in playing, provides a vital but often overlooked clue to a jazz artist’s identity. She is not alone in using what is known, somewhat disconcertingly as “terminal vibrato”, the brief “shake” postponed to the very end of an evenly sustained note. What is unique to her is the use of vibrato to give individual syllables and sometimes whole phrases a sort of fluttering energy. There’s a fine example in the very first bars of the CD itself, when the opening phrases of the verse to “More Than You Know” quiver with electricity.
Of course, all the magic hitherto described could be subverted by inappropriate or insensitive accompaniment. Stacey is richly served by her quintet here. The partnership between her voice and Jim Tomlinson’s tenor saxophone is sublime. The latter captures the spirit rather than the substance of Lester Young, whose way it was not to expand a tune with harmonic exploration, but to probe for the essence of it, often in the process using fewer notes than the theme itself. Listening to Jim’s solos such as in “Sleep Warm”, the keyword that comes to my mind is patience — no rushing to fill spaces with irrelevant padding, no pressing need to launch into paraphrase until the moment is ripe.
So perfect is the integration of the group as a whole that, ideally, this note should be written in the form of a “round robin” so that no order of precedence is implied. As a rhythm section David Newton, Colin Oxley, Andy Cleyndert and Steve Brown respond with faultless sensitivity, born of experience, to the mood of each song. Solos everywhere are of the highest class, with Dream Dancing especially evoking intoxicating stuff from piano and guitar. For me, nothing sums up the rapport and cohesion of the team more concisely than the warmly relaxed bossa nova treatment of Close Your Eyes — a shameless exercise in group seduction.
I can’t conceive of a more auspicious debut than this.
The Changing Lights
Liner note by writer, sound engineer, ZUZA HOMEM DE MELLO
When Stacey Kent sang for the first time in Brazil, on the same night as Esperanza Spalding and Carla Bley at our 2008 Jazz Festival in São Paulo, I had no idea that she had such a fascination for Brazilian music. Apart from singing Samba de Benção, which she sang in the French version, Samba Saravah, when I saw her at Olympia in Paris the previous year, Stacey neither spoke nor understood the language of our songs. I would never have imagined that only a few months later, she would be sending emails in perfectly constructed Portuguese, demonstrating an effective vocabulary. To me, Stacey and Jim, her husband and producer, had managed a feat which was only possible thanks to their dedication to the study of Portuguese and through their love of Brazilian song.
In her subsequent tours of Brazil and recordings, Stacey has presented new and breathtaking interpretations of Brazilian songs, without appearing to have the least concern for the risks of taking on the rhythm, melodies and poetry of our music. She has evolved so much so that she is no longer an American singer who sings in Portuguese. Stacey has absorbed with such sensitivity, the soul of Brazilian music, that she lends to her interpretations the essence and qualities which characterize the great interpreter of Brazilian music, João Gilberto. The tenderness with which Stacey interprets a song, is on a par with that which left the audience so enthralled at the Carnegie Hall concert of November 1962, upon hearing João Gilberto, Tom Jobim, Carlinhos Lyra, Roberto Menescal and other young, unknown Brazilian musicians, who brought with them to the United States, the cool breeze of Bossa Nova. Stacey too, brings to each song, that same fundamental, cool fragrance.
Although it features songs from the most significant partnerships of Brazilian music – Tom & Vinícius, Tom & Newton Mendonça, Menescal & Bôscoli, Dori Caymmi & Nelson Motta, João Bosco & Aldir Blanc, Marcos & Paulo Sérgio Valle – “The Changing Lights” is not an album of Brazilian music, per se. It includes new and brilliant songs from the writing team, Jim Tomlinson & Kazuo Ishiguro who, in their songs already part of Stacey’s repertoire, appear to have revealed both her conscious and unconscious self. There are also Jim’s arrangements, which formed the style that introduced Stacey in The Ice Hotel. We hear also the Jobim-esque interjections of Graham Harvey and the contribution on guitar of Roberto Menescal – Menesca to his Carioca friends. Then there are the delicate tenor solos of Jim Tomlinson, boldly much closer to Brazilian sinuousness than those of his idol, Stan Getz. There are the lyrics of Ishiguro which stir the imagination into reliving scenes which, as in dreams, are never perceived as being in the past. There are also Jim’s original songs in French and Portuguese too, with new partners, Bernie Beaupère and Antonio Ladeira.
And, between the lines of each track, be they the seven Brazilians or the other six originals, what remains apparent is our enchantment with the musical nature of Stacey Kent. Where does it come from, this captivating nature? It simply comes from her sweetness, from the sugar of her voice and the passion of her art.
Finally, what are these changing lights made of? Luminous neon? Maybe so. But The Changing Lights of Stacey Kent is made of tenderness. And being made of tenderness, it is a Brazilian album even without being Brazilian. Only Stacey Kent is capable of creating this contradiction, a contradiction that makes perfect sense when you hear The Changing Lights.
– Zuza Homem de Mello July 2013
Zuza Homem de Mello (1933, São Paulo) is a journalist, producer and the writer of several books including João Gilberto and Eis aqui os Bossa Nova. Zuza was a bass player in Brasil, studied with Ray Brown at the School of Jazz (1957) and was student at Juilliard in the 50’s. Since 1956 he has written more than 1.000 articles on Jazz and Brazilian music.