Douyé

Quatro (Bossa Nova Deluxe)
(Groove Note)

With 39 musicians, nine arrangers and multiple producers involved, Nigerian native Douyé’s fourth album has the instrumental depth and organizational heft of a pop recording. It speaks volumes that the most affecting performance is an intimate take of Antônio Carlos Jobim’s much-recorded “Dindi,” which features just the singer and Brazilian guitarist Romero Lumbarbo. With 21 accompanists steaming through a slippery arrangement of Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream” Douyé struggles to make the lyrics swing and her narrow range makes her sound ill-suited to the concept of blending bossa nova and African groove.

The idea of exploring Brazil’s African roots is intriguing, but it seldom is made explicit. In fact, the first time the approach becomes clear is on “One Note Samba,” the seventh song on the 16-song album. Drummer Zack O’Farrill provides a funky, understated line that Mat Muntz fills out on bass as Douyé scats percussively. Even after the singer moves into the song’s verses, shifting to a more traditional bossa feel, the voicing of the horns carries an African vibe. Instead of the expected instrumental solo, Douyé makes a quick shift from Salvador to Lagos, displaying some effective guttural vocalization. It’s the best singing on the album.

Elsewhere, she constantly sounds like her natural personality is being stifled by the need to sing complex lyrics in English. Wobbly tonality is an issue on several other songs, and her attempt to project forcefully on “Lover Man” betrays breath and pitch problems that most producers would never allow to escape the studio.

Sung partially in the original Portuguese, Jobim’s “Agua De Beber” is much more successful, as is a gently churning version of Silver’s “Song For My Father.”