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The joy of jazz guitar

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Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo considers Southwest Florida his home away from home when he's not touring the world. He was happy to be back on Sunday, November 14, after the pandemic lockdown stymied his touring for more than a year.

Figueriedo performed a matinee solo concert in Venice FL in the Jazz With Morrie performance series, in advance of his three nights of performances next weekend at the Suncoast Jazz Festival in Clearwater.

“It's a pleasure to be back performing live after a long, long time," Figueiredo said. He did some online performances from his home in Franca, Brazil during the pandemic but noted: “I didn't feel the emotion, the connection with the audience."

That connection was back on Sunday as he shared the joy of jazz guitar, digging into the Brazilian jazz songbook, several original compositions, a bit of movie music, and jazz standards.

Figueiredo is a marvel to watch. He plays with a delightful blend of passion, power and whimsy as he combines jazz, the music of his homeland and classical guitar techniques into a distinctive sound.

He opened with Joao Pernambuco's choro “Sons de Carrilioes" before exploring Ary Barroso's classic “Aquarela do Brasil" and his own playful Portuguese tune “Fadinho," which means “Little Fado." Then came a bossa nova medley inspired by the sea: Antonio Carlos Jobim's “Wave" and Roberto Menescal's “Little Boat" sandwiching Jobim's “Desafinado."

“Lara's Theme," the love theme from the movie Dr. Zhivago, was one of his grandmother's favorites. He shared his own interpretation this day.

Other interesting moments included his melding of two Brazilian waltzes, an extended exploration of Paul Desmond's “Take Five" that accentuated a deep, throbbing bass line and offsetting sharp notes, and a romp segueing from Luiz Bonfa's “Manha de Carnaval to Ernesto Lecuona's Cuban classic “Malaguena." He also shared the classical-tinged “Antarctica" suite from his most recent CD, Antarctica (Arbors Jazz).(Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes for this gem).

The most interesting moment came late in the program when he asked audience members to select a key, a scale (major or minor) and a musical style. He did that twice, then performed an improvised composition. The inventive piece began with a F-sharp-minor bolero and continued with an E-flat-major Brazilian samba before returning to the opening segment.

“This isn't my composition," he said. “It's our composition.

What a feat. What an afternoon of guitar mastery and inventiveness.

Figueiredo performed at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice. The Jazz With Morrie series continues on Friday, December 3 at UUCOV with the Dick Hamilton Sextet.

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