For the set list of her first-ever appearance at New York's Blue Note last May, Gal Costa chose to sing material that influenced her growing up. Aware that she had to be as minimalist as possible, she chose a simple backing quartet of guitar, bass, drums and saxophone.
The disc, which was recorded over two of her five nights at the club, opens with three Jobim classics, "Fotografia ("Photo"), "Desafinado ("Off Key") and "Chega de Saudade ("No More Blues"), all songs featured on her 1999 tribute album Gal Sings Jobim
(Universal). On this album, she invited the audience to sing along with her, and many Brazilians must have been in the audience, as the voices do not simply follow the melody, but actually sing the words with her.
The mood changes a bit as they took on Ary Barroso's "Camisa Amarela ("Yellow Shirt"), a song written in the '30s that Costa had previously recorded on her MTV Unplugged album. In the words, a woman tells how her lover wears a worn yellow shirt as he enjoys the four-day Carnaval festivities, only to burn it when Ash Wednesday comes along. She also pays tribute to the genius of João Gilberto by taking on two songs from his usual setlist: "Pra Machucar Meu Coração, a tune featured on 1964's landmark Getz/Gilberto
album, and "Ave-Maria do Morro, a traditional song about life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro.
The highlights are the bluesy take on Mario Lago's "Nada Além, which featured bassist Jorin Moreira and about 200 snapping fingers, and "As Time Goes By, which had a very subtle bossa nova arrangement that highlighted the chops of guitarist Adriano Moreira.
The night, however, was an unspoken tribute to Jobim, and she went through other songs from his songbook, such as "Wave, "A Felicidade and one of his rare collaborations with Dorival Caymmi, "Copacabana.
The album closes with "The Girl From Ipanema, sung in English and Portuguese, and Ary Barroso's "Brazil. It is obvious that Costa seems to enjoy playing in a smaller venue (which she had never done before), and she gives a very relaxed performance. During "Ipanema, she handed the mic to some of the audience members and she also cracked self-deprecating jokes at her English skills.
At 61, her voice still sounds amazingly youthful and fresh and shows no sign of strain or stress. In contrast to her performances in larger venues, the audience had a chance to see a more intimate side of the singer over the course of this live recording.