French singer and songwriter Henri Salvador is no newcomer to Brazilian music. He spent four years in the country in the 1940s, cultivated a fondness for the culture and fostering friendships with such noted composers and musicians as Ary Barroso and Dorival Caymmi. So beloved by Brazilians is this 90-year-old native of French Guyana that two years ago, he was awarded Brazil’s Order of Cultural Merit.
Much of Révérence radiates a delicate bossa essence. Cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, a longtime Jobim associate, crafted the dreamy and unobtrusive string arrangements for the Brazilian-style fare and several tracks that reflect Latin American bolero and Continental pop ballad characteristics. Salvador’s voice is pure, supple, soothing, and unfailingly seductive throughout the 13 tracks, which were recorded in Rio de Janeiro, Paris, and New York. Salvador adds a touch of warm vibrato and sticks close to an on-the-beat reading of the tunes. The results, although mostly relaxed and low key, are truly arresting.
For contrast, several tracks have a big band backing Salvador and sport the jazzy, hip air of the kind of Parisian floorshow the singer starred in decades ago. The album features a long list of world-class talent that includes such noted Brazilian musicians as pianist João Donato and drummer Paulinho Braga, but the focus only briefly shifts from Salvador’s entrancing vocals when he’s joined for duets with Caetano Veloso (who croons in flawless French on Salvador’s own “Cherche la Rose”) and Gilberto Gil (on Jobim’s “Eu Sei Que Eu Vou Te Amar”). Even after adding up the triumphs of a seven decade-long career, it’s hard to believe anything can rival what Salvador achieves on Révérence.
- Mark Holston