While Brazilian Whispers marks Andrea Brachfeld's first thorough exploration of the titular stream of sound, you'd never know it from the results. Teaming up with Bill O'Connell, her longtime pianist and sounding board, the veteran flutist, who's typically engaged in Afro-Cuban affairs or straight ahead suggestions, sounds like she's been playing this music all her life.
Rather than spread focus across a massive realm of Brazilian territory, Brachfeld homes in on the music of one of the country's most totemic figures—Antonio Carlos Jobim. Seven of the album's eleven tracks nod to his compositional mastery, yet none of the performances bow in complete deference to templates. Brachfeld, O'Connell and the interchanging rhythm men working with them put a unique stamp on all of Jobim's work. Subtle artistic touches and personalizations often add luster to these pictures, as demonstrated on a "Double Rainbow" with a Fender Rhodes glaze, dancing ride cymbal and lilting runs from the leader, and a "Passarim" with overdubbed flute ambiance. And Brachfeld also hits her mark with more drastic, O'Connell-imagined rewrites like the shuffling "Waters of March" and effervescent, samba-fied "Girl from Ipanema."
Jobim's classics and underserved gems account for the bulk of the story on Brazilian Whispers, and a lone standard—"Never Let Me Go," dedicated to the late Roy Hargrove—broadens the picture a bit. But Brachfeld also deftly weaves her own work—three complementary originals, co-written with O'Connell—into the mix. "Sonhos e Cores" captures dreams and colors in a comfortable bossa flow, a gliding "Triste e Solitaria" directs similar rhythmic ideals into a more wistful space, and the vibrant "Espaço Aberto" closes out the album with a smile and a samba-ish strut. Whether dealing in introspection or cresting waves of exhilaration, Brachfeld's flutes manage to capture the ineffable qualities of Brazilian beauty in its many forms.