Masha Campagne has taken a giant leap on the road to establishing herself as a pre-eminent singer with a penchant for sensuous vocalastics with her sophomore record, Like Water, Like Air.
While she may sound like the eternal onlooker in the narratives and while she may not be an interpretive type of vocalists in the vein of that other West-Coast chanteuse of considerable repute, Laurie Antonioli, Campagne’s sensational vocals on this record are informed by naturally delicate, come-hither intonations and dreamy sensuality. Perhaps this is why she takes to the beautiful, almost tortured sighs of Brazilian music like the proverbial duck to water. But that is not all; even in English, Campagne is not just superior to most of her contemporaries, but of the singular manner in which she approaches the accentuation and dramaturgy of her lines, she is quite incomparable.
The singer can make her voice take extraordinary leaps. In doing this she sings her lines in long loping lines that feature dramatic elevations as they inhabit almost impossible planes with as she surprises many of her accompanists. The sassy, decidedly airy samba, “No Fundo Do Rio” she not only makes a carioca of herself, but makes tantalizing leaps mesmerizing the bass clarinet of the magnificent Harvey Wainapel. And then she has this hypnotic conversation with the song’s composer, Guinga, which makes the great musician guitarist and respond with blushing harmonies. Campagne repeats these remarkable feats once again when she flutters her lips, so to speak, alongside Guinga’s guitar on the intensely colored “Exasperada”.
With vocals like these, Masha Campagne is a natural fit for amorous ballads. She does not disappoint on Bronislav Kaper’s classic “Invitation,” which, although she appears to rush slightly, she does pull off with the touch of a gentle lover. On her own “My Heart Was Lost & I Found You” Campagne finds her timing and turns this passionate affair into one that is truly memorable. The singer is right on the money once again with another one of her compositions, “Like Water, Like Air,” which she has written, appropriately, as a swaggering samba. On “Mystery Unwrapped” Campagne, turns being an interloper into a mighty gem of a song. Not only is the music subtle and beautiful, but her lyrics are well-crafted here. And it is this kind of expertise, in addition to her magnetism as a vocalist, which has attracted some of the finest musicians on their instruments to her cause.
While Weber Iago may have been a shoe-in this time as well, being her long-time musical partner and producer; having the maestro Guinga, and the most magnificent harmonica and vibraphone player, Hendrik Meurkens as well as the ubiquitous (at least on anything Brazilian on the US West Coast) saxophonist and bass clarinettist, Harvey Wainapel would be akin to a master-stroke. Although her producing partner might require some kudos for pulling this off, ultimately it is how well she has stood up to the reputations of these musical giants says much for the vocalist’s own stature. And more than anything else, the arrangements are brilliant and this is also where Campagne shines. It would be remiss to write a critique of this record without mentioning Campagne’s bassist on this record as well: Dan Robbins as wondrous colours to the music on this CD and part of the reason it is so memorable is due to his extraordinary turn out as well as that of the incomparable pianist and producer, Weber Iago.