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Baby do Brasil at Blue Note Jazz Club

Ernest Barteldes By

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Baby do Brasil
Brasil Summerfest at Blue Note Jazz Club
New York, NY
July 21, 2014

On her second performance as part of the lineup for the 2014 edition of Brasil Summerfest (she performed the previous evening at the South Street Seaport), legendary Brazilian singer Baby do Brasil was backed by a stellar band. Rounded out by Skoota (drums ), Mike Ciro (guitar), Jon Deley (keyboards), Ze Grey (bass ) Daniel Sadownick (percussion), Julie Acosta (trumpet), and Mark Miller (trombone), they kicked off the set with a Portuguese-language gospel-meets-funk tune featuring strong northeastern Brazilian influences, followed immediately with an up-tempo take on do Brasil's 1980s hit "Telurica," sung with great energy and enthusiasm.

The audience (many who probably hadn't seen her perform since she temporarily withdrew from secular music in 2003 and dedicated herself to religious songs) expected to hear her famous hits, and she did not disappoint. The band was well-rehearsed, but also let loose at times, allowing several moments for free improvisation. An example was "Sem Pecado e Sem Juízo," which featured fluid solos from Acosta and Miller. There was also plenty of space for audience participation—for instance, hundreds sang along to "Menino do Rio," a tune penned in the late 1970s by Caetano Veloso that was included on the soundtrack of a Globo TV nighttime soap.

The best part of the show came when the band stepped off stage and do Brasil was joined by Edgar de Almeida on acoustic guitar and Marivaldo dos Santos for a short acoustic set that included "Brasil Pandeiro" (a tune she recorded with Os Novos Baianos in the early 70s) and a medley of Ary Barroso's classic compositions "Aquarela do Brasil" and Dorival Caymmi's "Samba da Minha Terra." Almeida played with elaborate chords, while dos Santos responded with clever touches to his hand drums. As the tunes ended, the lead singer began improvising on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Desafinado"— clearly unplanned, as Almeida scrambled to find the key do Brasil was singing in (he admitted to it later when asked privately about it). The song went on without a hitch, and as the band returned with a loose version of "Stand by Me" you could see Grey looking at Almeida's fingers to figure out what key the tune was being played in.

The two guest musicians left the stage and the band closed with a Bahia- inspired take on an English-language gospel song and double tempo take on Os Novos Baianos' "A Menina Danca"—originally a laid- back acoustic number, played here with a rock- meets-samba arrangement.

Baby do Brasil has lost none of her incredible stage energy—she still has the same vocal range, singing in the original keys and launching into her trademark scat between verses—especially when the audience took over a song. The band had great chemistry (Skoota mentioned that this was 'a band of friends'), interacting well with do Brasil, who communicated with fans in both English and Portuguese. This was no 'oldies' set, since many of the tunes she revisited were played in new arrangements with only hints of the original (like the inevitable guitar intro on "Menino do Rio"). This is Baby do Brasil today, not a reflection of times passed, decades ago.

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