Cuban-American vocalist Havana Carbo was born in Havana and raised in Cuba but later after the revolution emigrating to the United States and received a MFA in Musical Theatre Composition at New York University. Bridging musical song traditions from her native Cuba, traditional latin ballads, Brazil and the American popular song she first recorded for Soul Note but since 1985 on her own MDOLmusic label which has just issued her newest release, “Phantoms of Love.”
What an exquisite singer she is bringing a subtle smokiness to the Brazilian ballad, “Tarde Triste, with the light samba rhythm and Dario Eskenazi synthesized strings embellishing her vocals. The light, precise drumming of Vince Cherico and the flute of Oriente Lopez further add to the performances seductive charm. With a piano trio behind her on “The Shining Sea,” she gives a lugubrious rendition for this Johnny Mandel and Peggy Lee standard. Jack Pezanelli’s guitar is added for “Poinciana,” with more flute in the accompaniment behind her subdued dreamy vocal.
One doesn’t have to understand the lyrics to be engrossed by the romanticism and lost loves (suggested by the title of this recording) that is embodied in the lovely ballad “Tres Palabras” with some lovely alto saxophone from Oscar Feldman who also is also prominent on the languid “Possesso,” with some lovely arco playing from bassist Pablo Aslan on the latter track. The melody of “Que-Reste-T-Il De Nos Amours,” will be familiar from Gloria Lynne’s hit recording “I Wish you Love.” The English translation of the French is "What is left of our loves?" and Carbo captures the songs reflective evocation of happier youthful days on a track that epitomizes the performances on this recording.
Simply stated, “Phantoms of Love” is a superb recording by a remarkable vocalist who can caress a lyric with her soft, sultry and haunting delivery that lingers with the listener after the last notes of her accompaniment fade out. Havana Carbo is a voice that I intend to hear more of.
For FTC regulation purposes, this was received from a publicity form for the label or performer. This review appeared in Jazz & Blues Report #234 (March 1, 2010-April 15, 2010).