1987 | Atlantic
Tim Hauser likes to say that the Manhattan Transfer gets bored easily; hence the exploratory bent that has made them the most interesting vocal group in jazz (and maybe pop, too). Taking advantage of the then-cresting second Brazilian wave in North America while still going their own way musically, Brasil is the Transfer's most daring and perhaps most emotionally moving album to date, an original fusion of the Transfer's vigorous vocal blend, Brazilian harmonic warmth, the textures of American synthesized pop/jazz and the rhythms of both nations. They rely mostly upon five songs from one of Brazil's finest post-bossa nova writers, Djavan, with two more from Ivan Lins and one apiece from Gilberto Gil and Milton Nascimento (the Transfer has impeccable taste in Brazilian writers), while going to all kinds of folk for English lyrics. The oddly percolating "Soul Food to Go" with Dada lyrics by, of all people, the notorious Doug Fieger of the Knack, makes a fine energetic prelude to an album that also frets about Big Brother, the suppression of freedom, and the destruction of the Amazon rain forest. Clearly the Transfer had been listening hard not only to the sound but also the fury of Brazil's composers; their causes become the Transfer's as well. Djavan's lovely "Capim" has the dual advantage of having both the composer on vocals and a distinguished visitor from the first Brazilian wave, Stan Getz, blowing urbane obligatos. The last cut, "Notes from the Underground," an angry cry of solidarity with a haunting Lins tune and bumping instrumental lines from the Brazilian group Uakti, aches in the memory for hours. Alas, the elusive Brasil baffled many of the Transfer's fans and started a long commercial slide for the group. Yet it belongs among their greatest achievements, right alongside Extensions and Vocalese.