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Smokey & Miho's delightful re-creation of Brazilian bossa nova pop

Wednesday, Feb 12 2003
When avant-roots guitar picker Smokey Hormel and vocalist Miho Hatori first heard Os Afro Sambas, a spooky bossa nova classic by Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell and poet Vinicius De Moraes, they were so blown away they formed a band of their own to play the songs for a modern audience. Hormel -- a versatile craftsman who's backed folks as diverse as Tom Waits, Beck, and Johnny Cash -- and Hatori (Cibo Matto and Gorillaz) learned the Portuguese lyrics phonetically and took their show on the road last year. Since then, Smokey & Miho -- which also includes trumpeter Jon Birdsong, drummer Joey Waronker, and percussionist Mauro Refosco, among others -- has released two EPs, each adding a modern twist to the classic bossa vibe.

The first über-hip five-song effort, Smokey & Miho, features self-penned material, along with a cover of an obscure Angolan pop song by Euclides F. Pereira. On the follow-up disc, Tempo de Amor, the group sticks closer to its initial inspiration, covering four songs off the Afro Sambas album, as well as a fifth vintage Powell/De Moraes composition, "Consolação." The result is a true delight -- Hormel matches Powell's economy and grace, while Hatori recalls the blasé cool of Rio divas like Astrud Gilberto and the original Os Afro Sambas' singers -- particularly since the 1966 record remains mysteriously hard to find, even in this groovy age of CD reissues.

After a stopover in S.F. last summer, Smokey & Miho plays a welcome encore this week. Expect an elegant, affectionate homage to the glory days of Brazilian pop, along with some unexpected twists and turns from the band's wide-ranging repertoire.

About The Author

Lawrence Kay


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