Badi Assad comes from Brasilian musical royalty. Her brothers Sergio and Odair Assad are perhaps the greatest classical guitarists to come out of that country in several generations. Her niece is the ineffable Clarice Assad, whose music traverses many boundaries, in fact, might be said to blur the lines of those manmade divisions. Indeed the entire Assad family – three generations of them are supremely talented musicians who define everything that is superb about Brasilian instrumental and vocal music. However, Badi Assad is unique; an artist like no other. She combines virtuoso guitar playing with vocalastics that include spoken and sung lyricism, vocal percussion and effects all at once. There is, quite simply no musician in the world. The quality of her music reaches such vaunted standards that many listeners gasp in wonderment at how one artist can combine so many musical facets in one single entity. In some respects she is like a musical diamond, perfectly cut.
On Hatched, her 2015 album, she goes where she has never been before. Her repertoire relocates popular songs from the Americas to her unique Brasilian landscape. Anyone with a deep affection not only for Ms. Assad, but also for some of the nobler anthems of this day and age, will need no excuse to grab a copy of this exquisite selection, especially so when it features performances of such tasteful restraint. You only need to sample Ms. Assad’s pure voice on Hunger on the Pine or her own Vejo você aqui and the brilliantly sung Entreleçar (which includes a magical little sojourn into the classic piece Copacabana) to know that there is sublime musical integrity at the heart of all of these performances. Also Badi Assad brings to each song a floating long and ethereal, silken lines of an exquisite nature that are guaranteed to beguile the listener. Even though Ms. Assad pulls back on some of the more daring aspects of her singing, she is a model of liquid beauty breathtaking in every respect.
Most of the songs are relatively unconventional and are set in the Brasilian mode without being overtly and rhythmically ‘Brasilian’. Badi Assad’s approach to both the music and her musical heritage and to the popular idiom is a clever blend of temporal ambiguity and uniquely focussed emotional precision. In the crystalline performances the musicians who accompany her underpin the music’s atmospheric delivery. Each musician displays unfettered exuberance firing up Ms. Assad with some superbly agile playing, inspired, no doubt, by the vocalist’s sharp and memorable playing. All of the musicians are aided by a recording that sets them up as a distance and their relationship with Ms. Assad is definitely supportive rather than combative. How refreshing this is.
In closing it is more than appropriate to return to the vocals on this album which is breathtaking and spine-tingling. But there is more. It is with the more reflective items that the singer’s undemonstrative approach bears the finest fruit, though in performances of delicious delicacy and subtlety. The unfolding of Vejo você aqui is perhaps the most magical moment on a disc which offers, in truth, an all-too-short 36 minutes of utter aural beauty.
Track List: Little Lion Man; The Hanging Tree; Hunger of the Pine; Royals; Sedated; Entreleçar; Stranger; Spirit Dog; Vejo você aqui.
Personnel: Badi Assad: vocals and guitar; Simone Sou: percudrum; Rui Barossi: bass; Oleg Fateev: bayan; Ruriá Duprat: synthesizer; Carlinhos Antunes: quarto.