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 Americanizedsomething 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 CampinasCampinas 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 beenthrough
a single by João Gilbertothe 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 Gilbertoa
childhood friend of Walter Santosand 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 musiciansas, for example, the 1962 album Jazz
In one of the best moments
of the show, she sangaccompanied by percussion onlythe 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
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 improvisationalbut
nevertheless greatas 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. citizensomething
she did so that she could have the chance to voteand 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
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