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Maria Rita at City Winery

Ernest Barteldes By

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Maria Rita
City Winery
New York, NY
February 2, 2014

During the first decade of her career, Brazilian singer Maria Rita stayed away from the catalogue of her late mother, the legendary Elis Regina, who died prematurely in 1982 at 36 years of age. When the 30-year anniversary of Regina's passing came along, she finally agreed to take on some of the music and give it her interpretation for Viva Elis, a limited, 5-date engagement that later evolved into a national tour throughout 2012, which unfortunately did not reach the US.

For her "Voice and Piano" tour, Maria Rita decided to change things quite a bit by singing solely with the accompaniment of Tiago Costa's piano and revisiting music from her five albums, plus tunes that she said she "enjoyed singing in her living room." She also stated that this was a way to explore the music without any extra resources, just the "two instruments" and nothing else.

The set opened with "Agora Só Falta Você" and followed with "Pagu." Both are Rita Lee compositions that Maria Rita reinvented with jazz-inspired arrangements and that became hits in her own voice. Tunes from Samba Meu (Warner Latina, 2007) were played in a slower tempo than on the studio recordings, giving them a bossa-like feel that allowed her to stretch her vocal capabilities and give the songs a more nuanced feel.

Among the highlights was a dramatic take on "Manhã de Carnaval," played mostly with a single piano bass note, that was a complete departure from its bossa-era incarnations. That tune led straight into "Aguas de Março," an Antonio Carlos Jobim tune that was recorded as a duet by the composer and Elis Regina in the early 1970s. Costa played very closely to Jobim's original piano line, and the audience immediately burst into applause as they recognized it.

Maria Rita then paused and briefly spoke about her mother's long-lasting legacy three decades after she has passed, and her own reluctance in embracing these tunes. She sang four tunes from that era: "Mucuripe"(Fagner/Belchior), "Romaria ," (Renato Teixeira) "Vou Deitar e Rolar" (Paulo Cesar Pinheiro/ Baden Powell] and "Madalena"(Ivan Lins). The Portuguese-speaking members of the audience sang along to every one of them. Rita paused throughout "Romaria" and was visibly emotional as she heard a choir of hundreds take over.

After a loud standing ovation, she concluded with two songs from her own records and a beautiful rendition of "Fascination" with Portuguese lyrics by Carlos Galhardo—a gigantic hit for Elis Regina in 1976. It was great to hear this music played in a completely different way—even though Maria Rita's voice resembles her mother's, she gives them her own style and delivery and makes them fresh for a whole new generation of fans.

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