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Badi Assad at Iridium Jazz Club

Ernest Barteldes By

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Badi Assad
Iridium Jazz Club
New York, NY
October 20, 2015

Backed solely by her nylon-string electric guitar, Brazilian singer and guitarist Badi Assad took to the stage in her first U.S. tour since 2007 in support of her 2015 release Hatched (Quatroventos, 2015). Before playing, she spoke of her mixed heritage coming from Lebanon, Italy, Portugal and Brazil, kicking off the set with "Eu Vim Daquele Lugar," whose lyrics emphasize her country's melting pot. She followed that with a tune inspired by the beats of northeastern Brazil filled with her characteristic mouth clicks and improvised vocalizations and quickly went into Rio's classic bossa nova groove with "Basica," a playful tune about how a white blouse might be unaffected by one's perception of fashion, citing passages from Ary Barroso's "Aquarela do Brasil in her playing.

Aware that many fans were there for her earlier material, she included several instrumental pieces that enhanced her guitar chops. But her focus that evening was on Hatched so she quickly dove into material, starting with Mumford & Son's "Little Lion Man" with a bossa nova-like feel that was quite different from the original recording. She then followed with Hozier's "Sedated," again taking the music in a completely different direction using mostly her guitar's harmonics as accompaniment to her singing.

She then went back to earlier material, featuring "Waves," an experimental instrumental featured on the soundtrack of the 2003 feature film It Runs in the Family. Before she played, she remarked that she is always reminded of the film because of the royalties she still receives from time to time." "Waves" had a simple chord progression, and Assad sang wordless vocals and mouth clicks, and carried on with Lorde's "Royals" with a northeastern Brazilian feel.

Assad has the ability to expand on simple melodies to her advantage—she often uses the guitar as percussion, hitting against the pickup to create an extra beat that creates a backdrop to what she is doing with her left hand. She uses no effects of loops—her guitar is plugged into a direct box and nothing else, so it is pretty amazing to witness what she is able to do with no embellishments.

The set closed with a cover of Geraldo Azevedo's "Ai Que Saudade de Voce," a Brazilian standard not very well known outside the country. Assad played and sang with citations to Luiz Gonzaga's "Asa Branca" and a lot of improvised moments. It was an incredibly satisfying experience to hear these songs played live, as she distances from her own recordings to create a refreshingly new sound.

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