Paula MayarPaula Maya takes two steps forward toward Brazilian pop, and one step back toward jazz fusion – it all depends on which direction you think of as forward...                                                      

Artist: Paula Maya  
Label: Yellow House Records
Length: 8 tracks / 35 minutes

Paula Maya's new project, Iluminar, is an unusual pairing of Brazilian rhythms, zydeco, jazz-fusion, a hint of reggae, and pop. Most of the vocals on this, her sixth studio album, are sung in a pleasant pop style in Portuguese. The songs have a basic small-band sound which occasionally made me feel like I was listening to wedding reception music: relatively light-weight, pleasant songs performed competently but without distinction (with a few exceptions, where the music transcended the wedding entertainment level).

Maya (who plays keyboard, produced, and wrote all but one song) is a pleasant enough vocalist, in a low-key kind of way, but would benefit from stronger melodies to feature her talents. “The Rain ” - the only English-language track - comes off well, and shows a little more musical sophistication (it features a soukous influence, rhythmically) and is more Jobin-like lyrically (or is that just my language preference speaking?).

From her bio, it seems that previous work has flirted with avant garde instrumentals, classical, pop and rock – maybe that’s where her strength as an artist shines brightest. There’s one instrumental song - a well-played jazz/fusion track - and it leaps out from the rest of the album. “Julia,” shows that this artist/band certainly have a lot more to offer than wedding reception-level entertainment (no offence meant to you hard-working wedding bands). More of the jazzy side next time, se você por favor.

Bert Saraco