A taste of music from Brazil. Joao Gilberto headlines festival with a bossa nova beat
New York — With Brazilian rhythms and melodies echoing in so much American pop music today, it was invigorating recently to sample the real thing: Brazilian artists performing their own music in a New York festival sponsored by Brazil Projects. Among the featured artists were singer/guitarists Joao Bosco and Caetano Veloso, and vocalist Leny Andrade. But the performer everyone was waiting for was Joao Gilberto - making his first appearance here since 1978.
Mr. Gilberto is best known in this country for his 1963 bossa nova recording with jazz saxophonist Stan Getz, ``Getz/Gilberto,'' and his subdued singing and guitar playing. Not a sound was heard in the hall as he gave a quietly moving performance, sitting alone with his guitar in the center of the stage, singing ``Garota de Ipanema'' (``The Girl From Ipanema''), ``Corcovado'' (``Quiet Nights''), and other hits associated with him.
Gilberto presents a song in such a simple, intimate way that even those who don't understand Portuguese are touched. For those who do understand, the lyrics speak of life's little ironies and sadnesses, as well as its humorous side. Though he rarely smiles, Gilberto projects a sweetness that draws his audience to him. One can only hope he'll return before another decade passes.
Joao Bosco is a singer, composer, and astonishing guitarist, relatively unknown in the United States. He is a master of polyrhythms on the guitar, creating layers of sound that give the illusion of several people playing at once. As a singer, he's warm and earthy and makes good use of mouth percussion, creating further rhythms to complement his guitar. A veritable whirlwind of energy, Mr. Bosco bounded through a long set of bossa novas and sambas, pop tunes and ballads, a couple of songs that invited audience participation. Altogether it was an exhilarating performance.
In Brazil in the late '60s, Caetano Veloso, together with Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa, developed a style called Tropicalia - a music that grew out of the bossa nova, but used electric guitars and was considered avant-garde and rebellious. Mr. Veloso's affinity for the avant-garde is still apparent. Although a central portion (and the best part) of his concert was taken up with gentle bossa nova vocals backed by acoustic guitars, the rest consisted of mixtures of rock, blues, and pop. Many of these were decidedly eccentric, rather tuneless, and less than satisfying.
Leny Andrade has been singing in Brazil since the 1950s, but her records are still not available in the US. A vocalist with a deep, husky voice, Miss Andrade is also a consummate musician with uncanny phrasing and impeccable scat singing, reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald. Unfortunately, her singing got buried much of the time under the booming bass drum of an unnecessarily huge rock setup, and her pianist too often got in the way of her vocals. Andrade is a great talent and deserves to be heard under more sympathetic circumstances.
The performer in the photo accompanying our May 26 review of a Brazilian music festival in New York was incorrectly identified as Joao Gilberto. The picture was actually of another festival performer, Joao Bosco.