Here at Tuned Up, we get a fair amount of albums that claim to be jazz, bossa nova, and a host of other genres. I’m no Latin jazz snob, but it’s pretty clear when an album is closer to beach rock than the unique swing of Brazilian classics.
But Sandro Manzon does not mince words claiming these genres as his influences. His latest EP is buttery-smooth; it’s unthreatening and unobtrusive. Manzon’s voice is subdued, almost a whisper at time. The tracks are tight and full, but there’s always plenty of space. This is certainly the kind of music that would be perfect at a hotel, supper club, or even mall. Indeed, it conjures memories of muzak.
With that said, this is not the sort of album many listeners will fully appreciate. This is a bit of a niche genre, one that tends to be delegated to the purpose of “background music”. At best, it’s easy to gloss over. At worst, it’s a bit too sleepy or amorphous. This is certainly a relaxing release, after all.
Thankfully, there’s nothing too demanding lyrically. Mr. Nothing perhaps WANTS to sit in the background. Maybe it serves its purpose in its ability to set a mood. Manzon’s voice is crisp and soulful, but unlike many compatriots, there are no wild crescendos or crooning here. He sings softly and the vocals are lower in the mix than much of modern music. It’s as if the vocals are simply another instrumental layer.
Across the EP’s five track, there’s a mix of piano, guitar (electric and acoustic), percussion, and wind instruments. Even though the mood is upbeat for the most part, I can’t help but draw comparison to slowcore bands like Dakota Suite. The use of negative spacing and the arpeggiation of certain melodies is certainly emotional. This is most noticeable on “Humdrum”.
It’ll take a certain ear and appreciation for music to grasp this EP. It’s far from inaccessible, but this is not the type of music you’d find on the charts – Manzon’s ability as a composer is ultimately contingent on the power of the end product. These are soothing songs whose compositions are entrancing yet meek. Manzon doesn’t shout for attention here; instead, he opts to woo listeners in. But it’s the same degree of restraint that may cause some listeners to feel unpursued.
But if you’re a fan of jazz, samba, or even adult contemporary, these songs should feel welcome. This is not obtuse free jazz by any stretch, and there’s certainly some slight degree of pop crossover. Ultimately, this EP will be enjoyed best actively by fans of classical, orchestral, and jazz; for many other listeners, it might serve a more passive role as a means of setting a mood or relaxing. But either way, Manzon has crafted a powerful set of emotionally-intelligent tracks that affirm his ability to mix complex genres.