Rosa Passos, Ron Carter—Entre Amigos (Chesky) [SACD/CD, CD]

Even people who know nothing about Brazilian music recognize the urbane Latin syncopation of the bossa nova beat. The language, of course, is Portuguese, not Spanish. The key names in Brazilian pop music are Jobim and Gilberto; in orchestral and chamber music, Villa-Lobos. Arguably, the most alluring voice in Brazilian music today belongs to Rosa Passos, who partners with jazz bassist Ron Carter on this audiophile release.

Passos is not exactly a belter. Her tone is low and conversational, and her phrasing shows an affinity for jazz, as well as bossa nova. Producers Cliff Korman and David Chesky use reverb to suggest the proximity of bare walls in a medium-sized room. In effect, Passos sounds as though she were in your living room. The intimacy in the room is palpable-a warm, sensual, almost physical presence.

Carter is at his best here. He slips into the beat and leaves the singer in charge of the rhythmic rudder. At the same time, there's a vocal quality to his playing, as though he were a baritone singing counterpoint to Passos, and he has the melodic fluency to make that strategy work. The acoustic ambience gives him a less prominent halo than the singer, which is proper, while it articulates his soft-spoken bass lines perfectly. I don't speak a word of Portuguese, and I'm not an expert on Latin music, but this album blew me away. Oh, and it does include "Garota de Ipanema," better known as "The Girl from Ipanema."