Although this solo live CD was recorded a year before Baden Powell's death in 1999, it shows no diminishing of his extraordinary power. It also features his rarely-heard voice on a few tracks. Slightly rough but warm and true, it fits the Brazilian preference for soulful over pretty singing.
In a land famous for many superb guitarists, Baden Powell is considered one of the greatest. His harmonies are instantly recognizable, and his strong, passionate style is much closer to the native heart of Brazil than the smooth bossa nova, the country's most famous musical export. At the same time, a number of his compositions became familiar bossas, and some of these appear here: "Samba Triste," "Consolacao," and "Berimbau," which also became a pop hit in the US when recorded by singer Kenny Rankin.
Most of the fifteen tracks on Live at Bruxelles were written by Powell; the variety in his other choices showcases his versatility. For example, his classical training is evident in his masterful rendition of Bach's "Jesus Alegria dos Homens" (aka "Jesus Joy of Man's Desiring"). He does a dark, exciting take on Jobim's "Samba do Aviao," a richly emotive "Manha de Carnaval," and a driving version of "Garota de Ipanema" (Jobim's "Girl from Ipanema") that instantly strips off its elevator-music vibe.
All told, this is a golden banquet of a CD, a treat for Powell fans as well as a splendid introduction to his gifts. Happily, its crisp recording brings out the distinctive subtleties of his music. Highly recommended.
Personnel: Baden Powell: acoustic guitar, vocals.