This also represents the first time since 1993’s Home for the Holidays that he is using material other than his own original compositions. That is not to say that Karukas does not include originals on this album. On the contrary, he has included both new and revisited originals of his own. And some of his most inventive work are his romantic interpretations love classic Brazilian songs from Milton Nascimento to Dori Caymmi.
On serenata, Karukas abandons his brilliant flash for a more emotional, even romantic, treatment and interpretation of these wonderful and timeless songs from the wonder of Brazil. The transition reminds me of Rick Wakeman’s move from the fire of Criminal Record to the sweet and romantic beauty of Country Airs.
Even from his 1987 debut album, The Night Owl, Karukas proved himself a master of those great Brazilian melodies. Make no mistake, however, Karukas as shown himself to be master of genres from jazz to pop to rock to gospel. But it is on this album, Serenata, that Karukas truly reveals himself. It is almost as if he is repeating all the lovely words and thoughts that passed between him and his wife. This album is remarkable and it is almost impossible to point out one or even two songs that stand out.
Indeed, each and every song is a treasure. From the upbeat and lively Tudo O Que Voce Podia Ser (All That You Could Be) from the great Milton Nascimento to the lovely and soulful Nascente (Spring) by Karukas himself, Gregg Karukas touches the varied emotions and moods of love and, yes, loss. Then a joyous reverie paints Paisagem da Janela (The Window Landscape) in such glorious ways.
He concludes the album with Lament (Final Embrace) and Long Ago, both echoing the pain and longing of such loss. The entire album is an elegy of melancholy but without regret. It is a testimony to love.
Gregg Karukas has again and again shown his talent and skill and virtuosity through his first twelve albums. With Serenata, he lays bare his heart and encourages us to do the same.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl