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Marcos Valle and Stacey Kent at Birdland

Nick Catalano By

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Another of Brazil's music luminaries from the sixties, Marcos Valle, came to Gotham on December 9, 2014 to team up with Stacey Kent and Jim Tomlinson and advance the Brazilian omnipresence here of late. Last month I wrote of the dramatic emergence of the Spokfrevo Orquestra at Lincoln Center and everywhere this month there are appearances by Romero Lubambo, Nilson Matta, Duduka Da Fonseca, Hendrik Meurkens and many other Brasilieros. And the jazz audiences I joined both at Lincoln Center and Birdland contained so many Brazilians that the usual English translations were predictably sporadic. The musical magic of our neighbor to the south clearly continues unabated.

Valle was celebrating his 50th year on the scene and Kent was celebrating their collaboration, Ao Vivo Comemorando os 50 Anos de Marcos Valle (Sony, 2014), with the music that has become her career's imprimatur. Although she sings French ballads and pop standards, it is the samba of Valle and his legendary peers from Rio that lures her with its siren's call.

Valle's entire band from the CD was in town for this date. The group included trumpeter/arranger Jesse Sadoc, flutist Marcelo Martins, guitarist Luiz Brasil, bassist Alberto Continentino and drummer Renato Massa. The opening selection, "Puma Branco," set a sensuous samba groove, with a different sequence from the usual AABA form delivering hypnotically melodic chromatic intervals. The flute and trumpet solos, together with Tomlinson's sax, established a mood that carried through the entire set. The band's cohesiveness was particularly impressive during the up-tempo "Batucada" and its patently Brazilian polyrhythmic textures.

Kent's love affair with Valle's music was on display throughout the evening. She has previously recorded his trademark "Summer Samba" and "The Face I Love," but revealed some novel romantic nuances in ballads such as "If You Went Away" and "Passa por Mim," the latter containing recitativo passages with unique poetic strains.

The crowd was treated to an encore in the first set which was to be included in a video of the evening's celebration. This selection, "She told me, She told me," was a fugue-led duet, with Kent and Valle exchanging quixotic lyrics.

The Kent-Tomlinson explorations with stalwart Brazilian composers have been very appealing for listeners and the hope is that their prescience in uncovering lesser known subtleties of the music will continue.

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