Ivan Lins, Cubanismo at The Clifford Brown Jazz Festival
Star Brazilian singer/composer/musician Ivan Lins led off the Sunday, June 13th program just after a drenching rain. Backed by a tight, excellent band of four (keyboards, acoustic guitars, bass, drums) and playing rhythm keyboard himself, Lins was a consumate entertainer. His set was greatly varied, including rousing anthems, at least half slower love songs, a "scot" from northeast Brazil which sounds like a cousin of reggae, and elements of jazz fusion running throughout. I love the way, especially on romantic songs, his chords dart into unexpected directions. At times the band's weaving of melodic lines and momentum-building seemed reminiscent of Weather Report. I'm no longer a big fan of fusion but applied to Lins' material it works. Ivan Lins always keeps it interesting, adding a trombone solo imitation, quotes from "Someday My Prince Will Come" tongue clicks, polyrhythms, even elements of hip-hop. Not a whole lot of solo work here but this department was handled beautifully by keyboardist Marco Brito. Lins himself was an excellent emcee. I appreciated his explanations of each song. His love of performing and appreciation for the audience really came across.
Cubanismo! was next, with leader/trumpeter Jesus Alemany making it clear from the start that they were a dance band. For over an hour the 13-piece, Havana-based band heated up Rodney Square, with about a third of the crowd (somewhat tepid during Ivan Lins' set)dancing at any given time. In typical Afro-Cuban band fashion, singers danced and played percussion, trumpets went into the stratosphere, the bass was solid as a rock and the horn section played intricate lines throughout. Tight and hot! As with Lins'set, there was not much in the way of solo space, but during the fourth number (a cha-cha)there was some stretching out, with the pianist providing a real bravura performance, integrating numerous stylistic elements including Eddie Palmieri-like sounds. If Cubanismo's performance/reception today is any indication I think Afro-Cuban music, especially once relations with Cuba are normalized, will have a huge popularity in this country.