Basia – Butterflies (2018)

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Nine long years after It’s That Girl Again, it’s that girl again. The international singing star Basia customarily takes her time with recording new material but rewards her fans’ patience with Butterflies, out on May 18, 2018 from Shanachie Entertainment.

Brazilian-flavored jazz-pop didn’t begin with Basia or her pre-solo group Matt Bianco: Sergio Mendes tasted the first success stateside with his Brasil ’66 group. However, Basia updated the sound and often made it discotheque-ready, and just as Lani Hall lent a unique voice to Brasil ’66, Basia boasts a distinctive, powerful voice of her own. The enduring appeal of this brand of pop is proven with the trio of platinum-selling studio albums Basia made from 1988 to 1993.

Many of the things expected from a Basia record are here: smart and snappy songs co-composed by Basia and her collaborator from the start, Danny White, with rich vocal arrangements. And of course, there’s the virtuosic voice of Basia herself, who seems to have lost none of her edge. But the jazz part of Basia’s jazz-pop gets more explicit here. That element was always present in her music but the production is scaled back with more acoustic elements (particularly the frequent presence of the unplugged guitar of Danny White’s brother Peter), enough to make the jazz easier to identify. That’s most apparent right from the start: “Bubble” is nearly all-acoustic straight-ahead jazz, a far cry from the elaborately constructed affairs of the first three albums and the swing suits Basia well. “Be.Pop,” with its big band accompaniment, reminds us that big band swing used to pop music decades ago, but there’s just enough of a contemporary sheen to this number to make one wonder why can’t it be that way again in the 21st century.

The heartfelt Latin folk number “Matteo” was the sneak peak of the album when it gave fans a taste back in March. “Show Time” rides on one of Basia and White’s signature bossa nova struts, a close cousin to 1990’s “Cruising For A Bruising” hit but this time Mark Reilly handles singing one of the verses, making this song a de-facto Matt Bianco reunion.

Per usual for Basia, there’s enough variety in the moods and styles of the songs to hold attention. “No Heartache” lures listeners into yet another breezy cadence before slamming into a funky chorus, and then a jazzy sax solo courtesy of Paul Booth. The synth bass line on “Butterfly” is a throwback of sorts to Time and Time‘s late 80s production values but sounds much less dated here; actually it underpins a choice mid-tempo groove and a nifty piano turn by White. The piano-led, slow-dance tempo “Where’s Your Pride” gives the song a sway that’s enticing. Even gentler is the Chinese-inspired ballad “Liang & Zhu,” which even has a hint of East Asian violin to underscore the heritage intended for the song.

A little mellower and little more intimate, Butterflies is Basia aging gracefully with music that will likely not age at all.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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