Jazz Album of the Week: Vocalist Douyé’s Quatro, Bossa Nova Deluxe

May 6, 2019

As an 11-year-old in Lagos, Nigeria, Douyé promised her dying father she’d one day sing the music he played for her as a child—jazz. After two well-received R&B records, the versatile vocalist (pronounced Doe-Yay) honored that promise, making her jazz debut with 2017’s Daddy Said So. Now, with Quatro, Douye’s diving into the Antonio Carlos Jobim songbook to honor the ancestral roots that she shares with bossa nova.

Bossa nova, of course, fuses elements of American jazz with Brazilian samba—both trace roots to the musical traditions of West Africa, the same West Africa where Douyé’s from. It’s this shared heritage that lends these tunes—most of which we’ve heard many, many times before— an emotional resonance that’s fresh and new.

The huge, and hugely talented, ensemble of musicians Douyé has assembled to play on the record doesn’t hurt either.

Brazilian guitarist Angelo Metz has written arrangements here for a quartet of Jobim classics, and they’re the album’s most straight-ahead bossa tunes: “Triste,” “Corcovado,” “Wave,” and “Girl from Ipanema.” The “Triste” is one of the best I’ve heard in a long while, owing to the kind of elegant simplicity and easy precision that only superior musicianship can carry off.  Angelo Metz is running a bossa guitar-playing clinic and not even breaking a sweat, and Douyé’s round, relaxed breathiness hits the note of resignation the song requires with professional precision. And don’t discount Colombian-born woodwinder, Justo Almario, who contributes controlled, melodic lines on flute and saxophone on “Wave” and “Girl from Ipanema,” respectively.

Elsewhere on Quatro, Douyé reunites with her favorite arranger, drummer Zack O’Farrill. The two were simpatico on Daddy Said So, and there’s no cooling of the chemistry here, as O’Farrill is once again very cognizant of Douyé’s musical objectives and how best to effectuate them.  All three of his arrangements—Jobim’s “Agua de Beber” and “One Note Samba,” and Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream”—are for big band personnel, and none of the three are short on new ideas for these older tunes. The traditionalist may be jarred momentarily by forward thinking horn and wind arrangements, characterized by noir-ish harmonic dissonance, and passages fleetingly punctuated by hip-hop rhythms (see, especially, “One Note Samba” and “Agua de Beber”).

Given the backstory, it wasn’t surprising that Douyé opted to include “Song for My Father,” and certainly Horace Silver’s ode to pater familias does not disappoint in this context, at least partly because Horace’s most famous composition never lacked for bossa flavor to begin with.

That’s what makes bassist Phil Smith’s big band arrangement of “Lover Man” here so compelling. “Lover Man” is not one of those standards routinely given the bossa treatment, though the tune made most famous by Billie and Bird really does lend itself to that treatment quite nicely. The brass and woodwind soloists are particularly exciting here, and the leading lady doesn’t disappoint either.

Dad would most definitely be proud.