mon 16/12/2019

Vinícius Cantuária, Eliane Elias, Barbican review - simply does it | reviews, news & interviews

Vinícius Cantuária, Eliane Elias, Barbican review - simply does it

Vinícius Cantuária, Eliane Elias, Barbican review - simply does it

Eliane Elias's place at the confluence of jazz and Brazilian music is unique

Vinícius Cantuária

Less really is more. Vinícius Cantuária is a musician who has done it all, but has reverted to the simplicity of singing classic Jobim bossa nova songs, to which he brings a quite astonishing lightness of touch. Last night at the Barbican, alone on stage, with just a nylon string guitar for company, he made the 1,850-seater Barbican feel like the most intimate of small clubs.

Cantuária’s sublime art is to glide through chord sequences as if they are a liquid. Whereas jazz musicians can sometimes turn the act of working through a song form into a ponderous and self-conscious exercise of landing over-deliberately on one new chord after another, the Brazilian manages to do the opposite, just as the great João Gilberto used to do, only more so. The vocal line has complete freedom, and can either anticipate or lag behind the harmonic rhythm, whereas the accompanying chords stay in strict time. That may sound like a trick, but the artistry involved means that the results are truly magical, and with Cantuária’s assured yet diffident stage manner they can completely touch the heart. The more familiar the song, the freer Cantuária will tend to be with it, and classics like “Só Danço Samba” (Jazz and Samba), “Insensatez” (How Insensitive) and even “Garota de Ipanema” (The Girl from Ipanema) were sounding astonishingly fresh.

Cantuária has quite a history. He was born in Manaus and raised in Rio where he led a rock band, wrote hit songs for others, "So Voce" and "Lua E Estrella", and moved to New York in the early 1990s. He became a presence on the downtown scene, and collaborators went all the way from Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson and David Byrne to Brad Mehldau, Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot. There has always been something of the vagabond about him, and there are stories that he would sometimes just turn up randomly at festivals looking for a gig. The album Vinicius Canta Antonio Carlos Jobim, recorded mostly in Tokyo in 2013, has proved a turning-point. There is a version of the live Jobim show with a mostly American band with musicians such as long-term collaborator bassist Paul Socolow which made an impression at the 2018 Montreal Jazz Festival, but perhaps the solo show  which has been seen in London before at the Vortex in late 2016  is its most perfect form.

This week of the EFG London Jazz Festival has provided a good opportunity check out some very different points of the intersection between Brazilian music and jazz, with a running theme of celebrating 60 years of bossa nova. Pianist João Donato was in town for the opening night of the festival. The completely inimitable Hermeto Pascoal brought his band of five younger musicians for two completely joyous nights at Ronnie Scott’s at the beginning of the week complete with kettle and squeaky rubber pigs, and last night Eliane Elias and her regular band rounded off the two-part Barbican show.

Eliane Elias (pictured above right) occupies a unique place at the confluence of the worlds of Brazilian music and jazz, and her set, rather than focusing  as had been announced  on Elias’ new, 27th, album Love Stories turned out to be a typical Elias set not unlike the one which Peter Quinn reviewed at Ronnie Scott’s in 2016. They played just one song from the newest album, the Cahn/ Van Heusen standard “Come Fly With Me”. We had Roberto Menescal’s “Rosa Morena” again as a song-and-dance routine for Elias, and a delightfully thoughtful yet virtuosic solo piano Johnny Mandel’s “Emily” in tribute to Bill Evans. The set came to a close with an extended version of Jobim’s "Desafinado" which gave scope for bassist Marc Johnson to do a superbly melodic and high-reaching solo and for drummer Rafael Barata to give us the full Gene Krupa works.

This was a show where Eliane Elias was nominally the headliner, but it is the delicate, intimate, consummate artistry of Vinícius Cantuária which stays in the mind.

@sebscotney

Cantuária’s sublime art is to glide through chord sequences as if they are a liquid

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