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Brazzil - Music - July 2004

Jazzy Brazil in Manhattan

The first Brazilian song on Luciana Souza's menu was "No More
Blues", a legendary Antonio Carlos Jobim composition. Souza
told the audience that she had learned that song before
she'd learned how to walk. Her take on the tune was from an
American point of view, however, despite the use of a tambourine.

Ernest Barteldes


Picture It was a sunny afternoon in lower Manhattan when São Paulo-born Luciana Souza began her free concert to an audience of about 1,000 people— many whose Souza's music was completely new to.

She opened the set with "House", an English-language translation of a Pablo Neruda poem that she set music to for her most recent CD and tour that celebrated the centennial of the late Chilean poet.

Souza made regular appearances at Greenwich Village's Public Theater last Spring with a whole repertoire dedicated to Neruda.

The initial impression that I had was that Souza's sound was very Americanized—something that possibly derives from the fact that she has been living in the U.S. for the last 18 years.

The singer has a very educated voice, at times resembling Jane Duboc or Joyce.

One notices her technical approach to song when she uses a tuning fork to find the key in which to start a song (many other singers ordinarily ask for the key from a musician).

Luciana Souza is a graduate of Unicamp (Universidade Estadual de Campinas—Campinas State University) in Brazil , and also holds a Bachelor's degree in Jazz composition from Berklee College of Music in Boston. Since the summer of 2003 she has also been a faculty member at Manhattan School of Music.

The first Brazilian song on the menu was "Chega de Saudade" ("No More Blues"), a legendary Antonio Carlos Jobim composition that many believe to have been—through a single by João Gilberto—the first bossa nova recording.

Before she began to sing, Souza told the audience that she had learned that song even before she'd learned how to walk. Her parents, Walter "Waltinho" Santos and Teresa Souza were musicians during the bossa nova era and Jobim, João Gilberto—a childhood friend of Walter Santos—and many others were frequently at her home for lengthy jam sessions.

Her take on the song was played from an American point of view, despite the use of a pandeiro (tambourine ) throughout the song. Think of a Stan Getz take on it without the presence of Brazilian musicians—as, for example, the 1962 album Jazz Samba.

In one of the best moments of the show, she sang—accompanied by percussion only—the classic Luiz Gonzaga song "Vem Morena" (Come to me, Brunette), a song in which a sanfona (accordion) player urges a beautiful girl to come near him even though he knows that her beauty will ultimately be the death of him.

Shortly before the song, she told the audience of the plight of the nordestino (northeastern) man who relentlessly struggles with the hot sun and the lack of rain year after year.

Another great moment was "I Shall Not Want", a jam-like jazz tune that served to showcase the individual talent of each member of her band.

The last Brazilian song on the set was Djavan's "Maria das Mercedes." I doubt, though, that the Alagoas-born composer would recognize his composition, jazzy and improvisational—but nevertheless great—as it was.

The crowd was very attentive. I couldn't really tell if there were many Brazilians in the audience. If there were, they did not flaunt it. Souza is better known in the U.S. than in her native land, but they were very receptive and enthusiastic with her presentation.

"I feel it is wonderful to play an open-air concert", she told me backstage after the show. "It is great to have a chance to play to people who would not ordinarily go to a club to see me".

Near the end of her set, she told the audience that she had recently become a U.S. citizen—something she did so that she could have the chance to vote—and then encouraged everyone to actively participate in the upcoming November election.

Luciana Souza's set was a memorable one, and I will be looking forward to her upcoming performances.

Concert Review: Luciana Souza
Hudson River Festival at World Financial Center Plaza
New York, July 20 2004

Ernest Barteldes is an ESL and Portuguese teacher. In addition to that, he is a freelance writer who has regularly been contributing The Greenwich Village Gazette since September 1999. His work has also been published by Brazzil, The Staten Island Advance, The Staten Island Register, The SI Muse, The Villager, GLSSite and other publications. He lives in Staten Island, NY. He can be reached at ebarteldes@yahoo.com.

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