A Louisiana swamp on the cover is not a typical feature of a bossa nova record. The genre is certainly not often identifed with New Orleans. But here comes Nova Nola, founded by renowned guitarist Steve Masakowski.
Nova Nola’s organic, largely acoustic sound is refreshing, a throwback to the heyday of the style 50 years ago. But this ain’t just João Gilberto for the new millennium. Modern touches abound, from Ricky Sebastian’s undeniably rock-tinged drumming on “Sea” to Sasha Masakowski’s creative use of multi-part vocal overdubbing. The album is punctuated by a series of brief “Marimba-ludes,” though one hardly needs a breather between songs this mellow.
Of course, there is the obligatory rendition of “Girl from Ipanema,” complete with breathy vocals. It might not win awards for adventurous programming, but Sasha’s interpretation (in Portuguese) is still a winner.
Steve Masakowski reveals his compositional talent with a number of originals. The music frequently betrays his background in fusion and modern jazz, but that’s not a bad thing. The continuum of styles, from the pure to the composite, keeps listeners on their toes.