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Badi Assad's "Between Love and Luck" Album Review

After disappearing for nearly a decade, the Brazilian force-of-nature that is Badi Assad is back with a magical blend of supple grooves, virtuosic nylon-string fingerpicking, and sensual vocals.


Badi Assad
Between Love and Luck
Quatro Ventos

When Badi Assad released Solo in 1994, fans of lyrical nylon-string guitar and Brazilian music took notice. Making her debut was a fingerstyle virtuoso playing rhythmically adventurous pieces with the skill of a classical master. But there was more: She had a magnificent voice. Not only did Assad sing captivating melodies in lilting Portuguese, but she added mouth percussion and daring vocalizations to the mix. Her music was a blend of sassy scat singing, driving rhythms, and stunning fretboard technique. And armed with only a classical guitar and some hand percussion, she’d pull it off in concert—an unforgettable sight.

Though Assad began as a soloist, soon her muse drew her into collaborations with Larry Coryell, Sarah McLachlan, Bobby McFerrin, Yo-Yo Ma, and others. Then in 2006—10 albums into her career—she stopped recording. As Assad explains it, her hiatus was a result of “the birth of my beloved daughter, Sofia. That’s when I decided ... to devote myself fully to the amazing adventure that is motherhood.”

But now Assad is back, ready once again to challenge listeners with new songs and soundscapes. Like her 2005 and 2006 albums Verde and Wonderland, Between Love and Luck primarily consists of ensemble tracks. Pulsing with lively Brazilian rhythms, the gorgeous arrangements feature cello, violin, horns, and keys, and Assad’s voice, which has matured into a warm, mellow instrument, and has all the pitch-perfect, nimble accuracy of her early work. She sings in Portuguese and English—sometimes both in the same song—and deftly weaves her nylon- and steel-string acoustic parts through the tracks.

Assad plays two brief solo pieces, “Vinheta Noite” and “Vinheta Coração,” on nylon-string, and these offer tantalizing echoes of her first two albums. Several other tunes, such as “Mar Egeu,” are built around her expressive 6-string, but overall Between Love and Luck is about using the guitar for composing (she wrote 12 of the 14 songs) and accompanying her vocals. Sensual and satisfying, this music will take you to exotic, unexpected places.

Must-hear track: “Mar Egeu”