Cleveland Heights OH
Fresh off a summer tour that included a 20-city stint through Europe and gigs in Japan and Africa, Brazilian master Joao Bosco and his quartet held forth for two consecutive evenings at Night Town and Cleveland was blessed to be one of only three spots in the nation to have hosted this alluring entertainer. Over the course of two generous sets of music, one had to marvel at the cohesion of this ensemble that included guitarist Nelson Favia, bassist Ney Conceicao, and drummer Kiko Freitas. In fact, it was hard to take your eyes off of Freitas. He was a constant source of musical inspiration, playing drums and cymbals with his hands, firing off some tricky one-handed rolls, and nailing a variety of grooves including samba, bossa nova, and afoxé.
Most of the material for both sets came from Bosco's pen and his tunes percolate on top of many different Brazilian rhythms, his guitar providing the foundation and Favia serving as a solo voice. With a style that borders on the cool and sublime, Bosco's husky delivery and penchant for singing in long phrases is unique and somewhat the contrary of such peers as Milton Nascimento or Ivan Lins. Even familiar lines like Jobim's "The Waters of March" were coyly transformed and on "Desafinado" Bosco managed an unusual scatting effect for a few choruses before coming in with the actual lyrics.
Although it seems that the opposite is usually true for most shows, the first show was actually better than the second. For the later performance, Bosco chose to lead off with four or five solo numbers in a bossa vein and while he can accompany himself with some serviceable guitar licks, the added pizzazz of his accompanying musicians was greatly missed, especially after having come off the exhilaration of the first set. Once the quartet was back in action, Bosco dived into a program similar to the first that included some of his older numbers such as "Odile Odila." By mid show, a contingency of Brazilians off in the back corner were up and dancing and egging him on in their native tongue. It was not the typical atmosphere you might expect for a Night Town show (the restaurant is usually host to small jazz shows), but one that was a hell of a lot of fun nonetheless.