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Music Review: Masha Campagne – Like Water, Like Air

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Masha Campagne Like Water, Like AirIt’s been over five years since Masha Campagne released her genre-bending 2007 debut Caminhos Cruzados that introduced us to her warm, charismatic jazz vocals which are full of panache. Now, the sweet-toned chanteuse who is based in San Francisco (since relocating there from Russia in 1991) is set to thrill easy-listening audiences with her sophomore project, Like Water, Like Air.

The title cut emphasizes the organic and sensuous nature of her alluring music, just as she sings about her lover’s “sweet honey to my mouth” and “dew that wets the flower” and “the Earth that’s safely turning.” As on her first album, she draws on Jobim’s canon, in this case with a charming rendition of “Outra Vez” rendered with Hendrik Meurkens’ enchanting chromatic harmonica. He also plays that instrument on the title cut, as well as vibes on two others.

On Campagne’s debut album, she offered two pieces by guitarist Guinga. With the same approach to success, Like Water, Like Air features Guinga on two additional self-penned compositions, “No Fundo Do Rio” and “Exasperada.” The former is a lean arrangement albeit full of fun sounds from Harvey Wainapel’s bass clarinet and Guello’s percussion. The latter is a slower melancholy number, exotic and sad that tests the singer’s range, with only guitar backing. While Campagne’s voice may not be as big as Elis Regina’s or Gal Costa’s, it’s sincere and enchanting with both a jazzy and romantic side.

Campagne’s recorded music also continues to prominently feature Rio-raised pianist/arranger/producer Weber Iago, who wrote the closing cut, “I Can See You Now,” on this hour-long project. It’s tastefully played and sung in masterful fashion. That song’s message is about optimistically “searching for a path,” and I’d suggest that the road should lead you to Ms. Campagne’s music. Of special note on the new release are Campagne’s four originals (“Broke but Rich,” “My Heart Was Lost and Found for You,” “Like Water, Like Air,” and “Mystery Unwrapped”). Full of variety in tempo and moods, the songs are well-arranged, adventurous and tuneful. Wainapel only includes his saxophone’s groove on one track (“Se E Tarde Me Perdoa”), and I was left wondering (only slightly) if a little more of that instrument might have created sounds as explosive as when Astrud Gilberto collaborated with Stan Getz in the ’60s.

With Like Water, Like Air, the talented and enthralling Masha Campagne has released vulnerable music on an outstanding album to savor. It’s a captivating set that emphasizes impressive musicianship with vision, creativity, and class.

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