Here’s my review of Brazilian vocalist Luciano Souza, from International Review of Music:
September 3, 2012
By Michael Katz
Luciana Souza opened the Broad Stage season Saturday night in Santa Monica, celebrating the release of two CDs, Duos III and The Book of Chet, the latter featuring the music of Chet Baker. Backed up by a superb California rhythm section of Larry Koonse on guitar, Derek Oles on bass and the Bay Area’s Scott Amendola on percussion, Ms. Souza moved seamlessly between the two collections, mixing Brazilian numbers with her interpretations of the Baker-influenced standards.
Ms. Souza has a rich, lyrical style that moves beyond the light, airy vocals often associated with Brazilian music. This allows her to explore the nuances of these compositions, as well as interpreting the lyrics, (with some translation beforehand) in a way that goes beyond the bright rhythms of the samba. “Doralice,” for example, is a tune I’ve heard many times, but after explaining that the title character was trying to prod her boyfriend toward a marriage proposal, Souza’s delightful reading was musical theatre, reminiscent of Rita Moreno.
The show began with two numbers from The Book of Chet. “The Thrill Is Gone,” seemed an unlikely way to start the show – it doesn’t seem like a 7:30 kind of song to me, though it also opens the CD. But it did establish Ms. Souza’s venture into territory unfamiliar to the audience at the cozy Broad Stage. Once again, her rich style added texture to the tunes. Ironically, the very things that she attests attracted her to the music – the kind of asexual stream of consciousness in Baker’s presentation – afford her the opportunity to up the ante and weave her own expressionistic style through the songs.
The middle of the program was devoted to Brazilian tunes, mostly from the Duos III CD. A few words here about guitarist Larry Koonse. It’s possible we in the LA area take Koonse for granted, having seen him in so many combinations with his own groups and others. But Saturday night, up against the ghost of Joao Gilberto and the shadows of Ms. Souza’s usual accompanists, Marco Pereira and Romero Lubambo, he shone at every turn, offering subtle support to her vocals on familiar tunes like Jobim’s “Dindi” and providing lively accompaniment on a new piece by Pereira, “Dona Lu,” as well as a lovely introduction to Paul Simon’s “Amulet.” On “Eu Vim da Bahia,” you could almost hear the tenor of Stan Getz in Koonse’s middle tones. All these tunes rippled with the sensitivity of Souza, who communicated the poetry in them with minimal interpretation.
Scott Amendola returned to the stage, hand-drumming the tops of his snares, then switching to soft mallets and finally brushes in his most artistic turn of the night, an introduction to “Circus Life,” a Souza original from her Tides album. It’s a spirited, brightly melodic composition which brought to mind Joni Mitchell.
From there on out, the program centered on music from The Book of Chet, including a Derek Oles solo intro to “The Very Thought Of You” and Souza’s luscious reading of “He Was Too Good To Me.” Like the earlier “Forgetful,” these songs allowed Souza to augment the Baker songbook but by now, having heard her more familiar Brazilian melodies, the audience was attuned to the change in perspective. As she switched to mainly English lyrics, Ms. Souza showed a complete command of the language, projecting only the barest Brazilian inflection as she explored this music.
The nominal end of the program was “Adeus America, (Goodbye America),” somewhat ironic in that she now resides here, and the crowd brought her back for an encore from the Chet Baker oeuvre, “I Fall In Love Too Easily.”
It’s hard enough these days for an artist to put together one collection of inspired material for a CD, much less two programs of quite different emphasis. It’s equally difficult to bring together a quartet on short notice that can perform the music as sensitively as Luciana Souza did Saturday night with the backing of Larry Koonse, Scott Amendola and Derek Oles. All in all, a delightful opening to the Broad’s new season.
Here’s my review of Dori Caymmi from International Review of Music.
June 25, 2012
By Michael Katz
Ruth Price brought The Jazz Bakery back to its once and future home in Culver City this weekend, and Westsiders gratefully filled the Kirk Douglas Theatre to capacity Saturday night for a stunning performance by Brazilian composer/singer/guitarist Dori Caymmi. Caymmi boasts a family lineage that predates the samba and bossa nova movement of Jobim, Bonfa, Joao Gilberto and others. His father, Dorival Caymmi, was one of Brazil’s most enduring songwriters, perhaps best known in this country for O Cantador (Like A Lover); his siblings, Nana and Danilo, have long been a fixture on the Brazilian scene.
Dori, silver haired now and humorously giving nods to age, has a haunting, darkly romantic voice. Singing almost entirely in Portuguese, he manages to communicate the feelings of loss and yearning almost intuitively. His rich, dark tones draw you into the music and his quartet ably provides the texture to fill in the linguistic gaps.
The first third of the ninety minute concert touched on songs from Dorival Caymmi’s era and beyond. Dori used the familiar melody of Jobim’s “Desifinado” as an opening bridge to “Aquarela Do Brasil.” Ary Barrosso’s anthem has stood up to all manner of interpretation; Caymmi’s is brooding, almost foreboding. He gave way to Bill Cantos on keyboards and synthesizer, and Jerry Watts on electric bass. If you are used to the sometimes lush accompaniment of strings and flutes that have supported Caymmi on his recordings and augmented much of Jobim’s music, the electronics can be a bit jarring at first, but Cantos handled them with a light touch, adding his own vocals later in the set. Mark Shapiro handled the full range of percussion instruments, contributing to the drama inherent in Caymmi’s voicings.
There followed one of Dorival’s compositions, a more upbeat, samba-like tune, and then Jobim’s “Corcovado,” introduced by Caymmi’s spare guitar fingerings, dropping down into a minor chord. Like many of the great Brazilian guitarists, Gilberto in particular, Caymmi uses the guitar in an almost surgical fashion. His performance is less a singer accompanying himself than a duet between voice and strings. Shapiro, in particular, is expert in adding the Brazilian rhythms unobtrusively and on “Corcovado,” Cantos contributed a falsetto vocal, skipping lightly over his keyboard patter.
The middle third of the evening was devoted mainly to Caymmi’s latest CD, Poesia Musicada, which sets to music the poetry of Paulo Cesar Pinheiro. Caymmi performed three songs, all in Portuguese, most of which defied any direct translation – “Estrelo Cinco Pontas” roughly comes to “Five Point Star” — but that was about the extent of it. Still, the romantic tenor of the poetry-set-to-music came through without much need for it. The third song, “Velho Do Mar,” an elegy to the coastal city of Bahia in the era when his father was a young man, communicated a longing for a world left behind that resonates especially well here in Los Angeles.
There were plenty of Caymmi originals left in the program, including “Obsession,” which Sarah Vaughan recorded in 1987 on her Brazilian Romance album (with English lyrics). Caymmi’s rendition, not surprisingly, is dark and dangerous, wordless in parts, with some outstanding keyboard work from Cantos. Toward the end of the set, Caymmi picked up the pace with three numbers from Brazilian Serenata, his 1991 CD that has had the widest following here. Voce Ja Foi a Bahia?, a samba written by his father, turned the mood upbeat, with Cantos again supplying a vocal accompaniment and Jerry Watts utilizing a rounded-off timbre on the electric bass to keep the tone pulsating. Caymmi closed out the set with “Amazon River,” the anthem that begins and ends Serenata, and brought the band back for “Ninho de Vespa,” – literally “Beehive,” a traditional samba-esque tune from the same CD.
All in all, it was a rewarding evening for the jazz-starved Westside. It was great to see the Kirk Douglas theatre filled and we can only hope that the new Bakery will be laying it’s foundation before too long.