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2006, the Year MPB Found a Public Beyond the Brazilian Circuit

Brazilian singer Rosa Passos2006 was a very positive year for Brazilian musicians and the MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) in the United States. The labels and venues finally realized that there is a market for them outside the “Brazilian Circuit” (Newark, Boston and Miami), so the year was generous both on stage and on the shelves of our favorite record stores, speaking of which, there’s the bummer factor of Tower Record’s demise – they had the best World Music section in town.

Rosa Passos sold out New York’s Zenkel Hall during her appearance last February, and she took the opportunity to honor the bossa nova heroes of her past. One of the highlights of her performance was “Eu e Meu Coração”, a João Gilberto hit that the master himself taught her how to play over the telephone.

Seu Jorge has been a constant presence in the U.S. via his film and stage appearances; he played here at Irving Plaza in April, and returned with his band at Summerstage; if that weren’t enough, he also graced the stage at Cibelle’s show at the Mercury Lounge, where he dueted with her on “Arrete Lá Menina”, a track from her new album, The Shine of Electric Dried Leaves (Six Degrees)

After playing at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center several times in her career, Gal Costa had her small-stage début at The Blue Note Jazz Club in Manhattan during the spring; the shows were recorded, and the result can be heard  on Live At The Blue Note (DRG), which was released last September.

She returned last December for another week-long residence, but the show lacked the enthusiasm of that first time; although she sang as beautifully as ever, one couldn’t help but notice that she was no longer excited about playing at that room.

Paralamas do Sucesso  returned to the US in support of their Grammy-awarded Hoje (EMI), which is only available here as an import. The Newark stop went on without a hitch, even though promoters held the band as late as 12:30 AM (way too late for a show announced for 10:00 PM, but that’s Newark for you); on that same month, Maria Rita finally graced us with a full tour, which included an appearance at New York’s Irving Plaza.

It helped that her sophomore album, Segundo (Warner Music Latina) got a full release in the U.S. Then there was the JVC Jazz Festival, which had an entire week dedicated to Brazil at the Jazz Standard, featuring performances by  Trio da Paz, Choro Ensemble, Cyro Baptista and Luciana Souza.

Summerstage has always been a great showcase for Brazilian talent; this year, in addition to Seu Jorge,  there was the U.S. début of Lenine – the audience, who was unfamiliar with him, greeted him warmly, but it was on the next day at Joe’s Pub that we saw his true colors. Backed by his four-piece band, he tore through his catalog, taking ownership for songs that many of us know only through the singers who have recorded his material.

Milton Nascimento played his Pietá show in October of 2005 at the Blue Note, and he did a return visit in 2006, this time doing songs from his catalogue and several instrumentals; it was an inspired show, which also included a tribute to the music of Jobim.

The most talked about Brazilian concert of 2006 was undoubtedly that of Marisa Monte, who brought the Universo Particular tour to the U.S. after a five-year hiatus. It was worth the wait, as she played what was possibly the most subdued of her concerts, generous with the oldies but also rich with her new music, which is available here via the Blue Note label.

2006 also saw the release of two posthumous Tom Jobim albums – the first being The Unknown, which was followed with Live at Minas, a rare opportunity to hear the master play an intimate concert accompanied solely by his piano. There was also Carioca, the new album by Chico Buarque de Hollanda, Maria Bethânia’s  Sings Vinicius de Moraes and Gal Costa’s Today and Our Moments.

Several smaller labels have also dedicated themselves to releasing Brazilian music in the U.S. market, namely Zoho, Adventure Music, Blue Toucan, Six Degrees and Adventure Music, who have put out albums by the likes of Duduka da Fonseca, CybelleCéu and many others. Let us hope that these dedicated efforts bear even greater fruit in upcoming years.

Ernest Barteldes is a freelance writer based on Staten Island, New York. He is a regular contributor to The Miami New Times, Brazzil, The New York Press, Global Rhythm magazine and All About Jazz-NY. He is also a columnist with The Brasilians and The Greenwich Village Gazette. His work has also appeared on The Staten Island Advance, The Florida Review (in Portuguese), Today’s Latino (in Spanish), Out Magazine, The New York Blade, The Boston Bay Windows, The New Times BPB, The Village Voice and other publications. He can be reached at ebarteldes@yahoo.com.

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