Mauricio Pessoa – Habitat

January 01, 1970



If there’s any irony to the term “bossa nova,” it’s that the
original meaning, “new trend,” which originated in the late 1950s, makes little
sense now that the form has enjoyed popularity for over 40 years. Without
alteration, it could probably please old fans and capture
new ones in perpetuity. Seminal bossa compositions set such a high bar that the
form’s been stuck, in a way, ever since, with subsequent performers mimicking
or attempting to vary the flavor of
roughly 30 classics. Bebel Gilberto (Joao’s daughter) has added  fresh color, and mergings of bossa standards
with samples or techno beats have endeavored to keep the form interesting to
more restless listeners. Still, writers who can allure with fresh compositions
have been pretty thin on the ground.


None of the above mitigates the ability of new,
born-to-bossa interpreters to deliver chills. That singer, guitarist and
songwriter Mauricio Pessoa is born to it radiates from his second album’s
quietly stunning opener, “Boca no Lodo.” The track trickles in with guitar
notes masquerading as cool water; bongos that could be coconuts being struck
together, and drum brushes. Pessoa’s vocals, which are on all but two of Habitat‘s tracks, have the masculine
tenderness that’s typical in this form. But the New York-based Brazilian’s
trump card is his songwriting, enhanced by an open mind. And MPB (musica
popular brasileira), his other major influence, helps keep fresh air blowing.


On the bossa tracks, Pessoa embraces the style’s wonders
while gently massaging its rigid strictures. One of the only pieces coming
anywhere close to breaking Habitat‘s
spell  is “Linda,” which Pessoa sings in English,
thereby losing one of the bossa formula’s integral elements. Nor does “Summer
Rain,” the other song delivered in English, excel. But it’s enhanced so nicely
by jazz saxophone and piano, the album’s richer for it. The unfortunately
placed “Saudade” is a string-drenched instrumental that gets stuck on an
elevator. Another instrumental-with-strings, “Estrada de Terra” avoids the
elevator and answers the hunger of Sergio Mendes fans for an elusively
sweet-while-breezy atmosphere.


Pessoa’s efforts to vary Habitat may have kept it from achieving an
A+. But if he feared droopiness, he’s succeeded: the album rarely feels like an
artifact. And while his songs may not attain the idyllic heights of those by
Jobim, et al., their charm brings Habitat unusually close. The transportive production was effected by Ze Luis Oliveira
with Beco Dranoff, the latter of whom also produced the Next Stop Wonderland soundtrack.


no Lodo,” “Prisma,” “Tulipa Turca,” “Agua da Fonte,” “Estrada de Terra” MARY


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