Basia – Butterflies (2018)

Basia - Butterflies (2018)
Artist: Basia
Album: Butterflies
Genre: Jazz-Pop, Bossa Nova, Vocal Jazz
Origin: Poland
Released: 2018
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Tracklist:
Bubble (00:03:50)
Matteo (00:03:40)
No Heartache (00:04:35)
Butterfly (00:04:33)
Where’s Your Pride (00:04:07)
Be.Pop (00:03:59)
Liang & Zhu (00:03:17)
Show Time (00:04:28)
Like Crazy (00:04:20)
Rachel’s Waltz (00:01:15)
Pandora’s Box (00:04:23)

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Polish singer and songwriter Basia became prominent during the 1980s, first for her membership in the polished British pop-jazz vocal outfit Matt Bianco, and later as a solo artist. Her first three wildly successful recordings — which sold by the truckload in the U.S. and U.K. — made her something of a household name during the MTV era. Her Brazilian-influenced jazzy soul helped to create a standard of excellence in adult contemporary on par with peers Everything But the Girl, Swing Out Sister, Level 42, and Sade. She all but disappeared after the ’90s, but did take part in a reunion with her former band for 2004’s acclaimed Matt’s Mood. In 2009, she returned to solo recording with It’s That Girl Again. The album resonated with longtime fans, but failed to rival the large sales of her earlier outings, perhaps due to a transitioning industry landscape. But everything in pop is cyclical. With Butterflies, her first studio recording since 2009 and debut for Shanachie, she attempts to reclaim her place with her trademark meld of classy, sophisticated Latin- and Brazilian jazz-tinged pop.

Co-written and co-produced with longtime collaborator and pianist (and Matt Bianco bandmate) Danny White, this set includes 11 originals that underscore her trademark sound and crisscross the genre landscape. In addition, her instantly recognizable voice and three-and-a-half octave range, attention to detail, craft, and a newfound freedom are the hallmarks of Butterflies. First single “Mateo” is at once crisp and vulnerable in its use of samba; its clean emotive lines and hip syncopation would not be out of step in a collaboration between Marisa Monte and Michael Franks. In “No Heartache,” lithe, layered vocal harmonies (reminiscent of Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66) meet breezy Latin funk — complete with wah-wah guitars and punchy clavinets. “Be Pop” is framed in hard-hitting uptempo swing buoyed by the Chopin University Big Band with swaggering saxophones and muted brass. “Show Time” juxtaposes a steamy guajira groove with lush romantic pop as former Matt Bianco bandmate Mark Reilly duets with Basia in a mini reunion. “Like Crazy” is a breathy, classy, Euro soul tune with Brazilian rhythmic accents and an irresistible hook. Basia’s vocal drips with conviction as her protagonist confesses want in the midnight hour amid rippling piano, taut bass, and synths. Retro-futurist samba fuels closer “Pandora’s Box” has slippery scatting, cascading strings, silvery muted brass, nylon-string guitars, and bubbling percussion. Basia gradually ratchets up the sensual tension as White delivers call-and-response ostinatos that guide saxophones, flutes, and even a bassoon. While it’s easy to peg Butterflies as simply a continuation of Basia’s aesthetic in a new century, that would be missing the point: That this winning formula has evolved from the past to emerge in the present as musically and emotionally resonant via wonderfully articulated songs illustrated with gorgeous charts and underscored by truly inspired performances.
Review by Thom Jurek