Philadelphia samba-jazz band Ensemble Novo has spent the last decade exploring the music of Brazil, and their new pair of EPs, This Is Ensemble Novo! and Carinhoso, continue their appreciation for and interpretation of the country’s sounds.

The new EPs see the five-piece diving deeper into the Brazilian songbook, tackling enduring classics and lesser-known songs in the bossa nova, samba, and Musica Popular Brazil (MPB) genres. The live studio recordings, some accompanied by a nine-piece string section, highlight Ensemble Novo’s knack for group interaction and improvisation.

“These were recorded just before the coronavirus and the lockdowns,” saxophonist Tom Moon shared in a press release. “We’d been playing together a lot and that’s audible, especially on the quiet pieces. We want to be the soundtrack for your next slow dance.”

Some standout tracks include renditions of Jobim’s “O Grande Amor,” Joao Gilberto’s “E Preciso Perdoar,” Edu Lobo’s “Zanzibar,” and Pixinguinha’s “Carinhoso” that capture the band’s vision of music as a pathway to empathy and intimacy. Listen below.

Ensemble Novo will play the Beer Garden at Longwood Gardens on June 3 and June 25. Find more information here.