(Soundbite of music)



When Luciana Souza was gathering material for her new album, she asked the guitarist, Marco Periera, to write her an original choro. The choro is a Brazilian form of music that gave rise to samba and the bossa nova. It dates back to the late 1800s and relies on improvisation. The choro is usually played by small ensembles without any vocals. But the choro is a fitting metaphor for singer Luciana Souza. She's equal parts jazz singer and samba singer and it's no wonder she wanted to lend her voice to a choro on her new album, "Duos II."

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Ms. SOUZA: (Singing in foreign language)

LYDEN: Luciana Souza joins me from our New York studio.

Welcome to the show.

Ms. SOUZA: Thank you, Jacki.

LYDEN: This is your sixth album. It's absolutely exquisite and on it you sing duos with several different guitarists. Tell me about the relationship between the guitar and the voice. In so much Brazilian music, they're twined.

Ms. SOUZA: I really find that guitar--the acoustic guitar is the perfect instrument for Brazilian music because it represents and it can actually play and perform everything we have in Brazilian music. These beautiful harmonies, you know, with the voicings and the sort of the tuning of the guitar and then it's a melodic instrument and it's a very percussive instrument, as I try to represent on the record this time.

LYDEN: And you come from a famous musical family in Brazil, the daughter of Walter Santos and Tereza Souza, both composers and musicians. So you probably could have just stayed in Brazil and used your family's name to help build a career, but you have chosen to come here to the United States. Why?

Ms. SOUZA: Yeah. A long time ago. First, I wanted to study jazz. I was really interested. I wanted to, you know, just dive into the music and you really need to come here in order to do that, so I studied jazz composition both for my bachelor and for my graduate studies. And it was just the best thing I could have done for myself in order to really immerse myself in the music and expand and open up. I really feel like if I had stayed in Brazil, Jacki, things would have just, you know, stayed the same and as you said, it would have been safe and pretty sure I would have had a career, but I think this was a better choice for me.

LYDEN: One some of your previous albums, you've gotten Grammy nominations, by the way, for best jazz vocalist, and on this one, you composed one of the pieces on the CD.

Ms. SOUZA: Yes. Something that's real simple, just a simple samba I wrote a long time ago.

LYDEN: And tell me the name.

Ms. SOUZA: It's called "Muita Bobeira," "Very Foolishly." And I've been falling in love my whole life and this is about falling in love and doing things that are foolish and just feeling like, you know, a fool walking around not knowing what it is and I still do that. So...

LYDEN: I won't ask you your age but you are still very young.

Ms. SOUZA: I'm 38. You can ask my age. It's been printed in The New York Times so many times.

LYDEN: Oh, well, then it must be true.

Ms. SOUZA: It is true.

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Ms. SOUZA: (Singing in foreign language)

LYDEN: You know, when I heard that first note of this song, I had the sense that you were puncturing the song of love, that you were sort of plucking the guitar strings with your voice. It's a wonderful song.

Ms. SOUZA: Thank you.

LYDEN: And there's also a composition on this new album that was written by your parents in 1960 and never recorded. Why didn't they?

Ms. SOUZA: I think the person who was going to record it never got around to it. His name was Dick Farney of--a Brazilian with an American name, a sort of Sinatra-like singer in Brazil in the 1940s, '50s and I guess '60s. But he never got around to recording it and my father had it and when I looked for tunes, I said, `Oh, there was a tune they used to sing when I was a kid,' and he gave it to me. So it's a very, very simple song. Actually, the whole record is, I think, really simple in a way, you know, just very basic with just songs that have good harmonies and good melodies.

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Ms. SOUZA: (Singing in foreign language)

LYDEN: A beautiful lyric your mother has written. I would like to say some of the lines here. `You come to me in the blue of the morning sky. Be my true, my last, my infinite and most beautiful love.' You know, it makes me think of wedding vows.

Ms. SOUZA: Yes. I guess so. They had just hooked up, my mom and dad, in like 1959, so...

LYDEN: You don't usually write your own lyrics, but you do seem to have a real interest and affinity for words. You've set the poems of Pablo Neruda and Elizabeth Bishop, the poet, to music. Where do you get that sort of passion for the words?

Ms. SOUZA: I think really from my mom, who is a poet and a lyricist. And, you know, a funny thing that I always remember from my childhood--I'm the youngest of many, many kids and every fight that we would have, which would have been plenty at the house, you know, she would just quote some poem from somebody, you know, from some--all the way back from Shakespeare to Comoins(ph) to some of the Portuguese poets and the Brazilian poets, and we would just be so startled that we would actually stop fighting. Like, `Why are you coming with this sentence? You know, why are you saying this?' And to us, you know, poetry, I guess, is symbolism for peace, which I tend to agree, so...

LYDEN: That is a wonderful story. Your voice is a lot more robust than some of the breathier singing in the United States that we associate sometimes with Brazilian popular music. Maybe this CD is more personal than others you've sung or perhaps the color and the way your voice is--the gravitas of it is intentional here.

Ms. SOUZA: I think you're right and it's a really interesting question. I think all the breathiness and airness that I could have added to the sound, on purpose I actually removed it for this record. I think there's--I just feel as a musician, as you age and as you do more records and as you sing more, which is a blessing, you know, and it's a privilege to do more and more, I think my sound is more focused now and what I have to say is more direct and less embellished in a way. You know, it's just simpler and I'm just sort of getting to things more quickly this time around, I think in just more direct ways.

(Soundbite of "Chorinho Pra Ele")

Ms. SOUZA: (Singing in foreign language)

LYDEN: There's another song that it says here that you learned as a child written by your godfather.

Ms. SOUZA: Yes. That's called "Chorinho Pra Ele." It's another choro like the one we heard before and this is just written by this Brazilian genius, who happens to be my godfather.

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Ms. SOUZA: (Singing in foreign language)

LYDEN: So were you like 10 years old when you first sang this song?

Ms. SOUZA: Yeah, I was probably three. He used to come to the house and play games with me. He's really an amazing musician. An albino, you know, he could barely see and just a phenomenal musician. He grew up playing every instrument and he's really considered a genius around the world and he would come to the house for a meal because there was always good food at the house and he would just, you know, play--sit at the piano and play some lines and say, `Follow me.' And I'd just go around. You know, he'd play these incredibly difficult lines and I'd just sing along and not fearing anything. And that I consider one of the great educations that I--possibly that I've had in music, just somebody taking you for a ride musically and telling you not to hang on to anything and just go.

(Soundbite of "Chorinho Pra Ele")

Ms. SOUZA: (Scats)

When--you know, if you start that as a very, very young person, then I think it helps. You know, it makes you have not--never fear music in any way.

LYDEN: Luciana, it's been a real pleasure talking to you.

Ms. SOUZA: Likewise. Thank you so much for this.

LYDEN: Thank you and thank you for this new CD. Singer and composer Luciana Souza. Her new album is called "Duos II."

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SOUZA: (Singing in foreign language)

LYDEN: And to hear more of Luciana Souza's music, go to our Web site, npr.org.

And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

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