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Maira Freitas + Lenine at Central Park Summerstage

Ernest Barteldes By

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Maira Freitas + Lenine
Brasil Summerfest at Central Park Summerstage
New York, NY
July 19, 2014

For her New York City debut, Maira Freitas traveled lightly, backed solely by a drummer on stage. She did the first few songs on piano, beginning with a jazz- inflected samba and then moving on to a very personal rendition of "Dream A Little Dream," her voice a clear soprano with great range. After introducing herself to the audience, she switched to an electric piano attached to a laptop, using lots of effects to enhance songs with a strong Afro- Brazilian feel.

Possibly aware that she was playing to a crowd who had probably never heard of her, she mixed originals with covers—one highlight was a bossa take on Michael Jackson's "Beat It" that had many audience members singing along with the chorus. She also paid tribute to her father, famed samba composer Martinho DaVila in a highly personal manner and remembered the late Dominguinhos with a beautiful take on his "Tenho Sede," freely improvising on the piano with the backing pre- programmed sounds and her live drummer.

Freitas worked the crowd skillfully, often stepping away from her keyboard to do a few dance steps. She ended her set with a medley that included Joao Gilberto's bossa classic "Eu Quero Um Samba" and "Voce Abusou," a tune recorded by countless artists, including Ella Fitzgerald.

After a brief intermission, Lenine came on stage backed by Martin Fondse's orchestra, who played many of the singer- songwriter's hits with an improvised orchestral approach. Many tunes were extended by highly improvisational solos—during some moments, soloists would stand up and join Lenine, and Fondse would sometimes switch to a melodica for some highly original moments. Lenine seemed to cherish these stretches, going on with the extended versions of his songs and adding a few guitar riffs in between.

The audience received the songs well, often singing along to those they knew— Lenine has penned many hits for Brazilian singers such as Milton Nascimento and Maria Beth, so the moment fans recognized a tune they just sang along. The orchestra was highly skilled, and used unusual resources like dropping chains on the snare drums and other odd percussive options. One of the best improvised moments came when a violinist got to his feet and did a solo duel with Lenine, who went right with it and let things flow freely for quite a while.

It was a magical evening that allowed audiences to appreciate artists who many had probably heard about, listening to familiar tunes from a completely different point of view, hoping the other musicians presented at Brasil Summerfest would be this surprising.

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