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Deborah Swiney Assembles a Dream Team for I Remember Rio

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Deborah Swiney is a familiar face in the live scene these days, and this record at last makes it possible to take a bit of her talent home with you. As a team effort, it expresses the best of what Memphis jazz has to offer, with players such as Ed Finney, Tony Thomas, Sam Shoup, Tom Lonardo, and Lannie McMillan. And, being an homage to Brazil, it naturally features the percussive talents of Felix Hernandez and Ekpe Abioto. The band has internalized the classic Brazilian rhythms so deeply that they never seem rote or mannered; rather, the music glides by as effortlessly as the originals.

Swiney, for her part, lives up to the on-point backing with soulful, interpretive vocals. Rather than opt for the breathy, breezy approach of classic Astrud Gilberto, Swiney's brassy delivery gives the songs a stronger profile. Ed Finney, as musical director, creates perfect settings for her voice, lending his own imaginative guitar lines as needed, and even contributing the title song, which is perhaps the real standout track here. It twists and turns with a graceful melody and intriguing changes. Swiney's sole original here, “Bossa Nova Casanova,” is more of a bon bon, a lighthearted study of the man who makes all the ladies swoon. All told, this is a great showcase for not just Swiney, but the entire Memphis jazz community.

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