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Without doubt, Brazil's Maria Bethânia is one of the most compelling, impassioned singers I've ever heard. But finding the "right" Bethânia album can be daunting for listeners new to MPB ( Música Popular Brasileira ). Her studio recordings are something of a mixed bag, but she's an absolute knockout onstage. My suggestion: try one (or both) of these live sets.
Recital na Boite Barroco was recorded soon after Bethânia's professional debut, and it shows why the public went crazy for her. The intimate setting is just right for the singer and her backup band. (Here it's the Terra Trio, a crack bossa-jazz outfit equally accomplished at vocals and instrumentals.) And what a set list! She starts off with Gilberto Gil's supercharged "Marginâlia II" and never lets up, with poignant sambas by Noel Rosa ("ÃÅ¡ltimo Desejo") and Assis Valente ("Camisa Listrada") alternating with boleros, bossa nova classics and Pixinguinha's matchless choro, "Carinhoso."
Maricotinha Ao Vivo is more than a reprise of Bethânia's latest studio album it's a sonic summary of her 35-year career. The arrangements, written by longtime musical partner Jaime Alem, have a lean, spare quality that suits her performing style to a T. Among the many memorable tracks: "Ronda" (by São Paulo-based composer Paulo Vanzolini), Rita Lee's "Baila Comigo/Shangrilá," and the haunting "A Voz de uma pessoa vitoriosa" (by her brother Caetano Veloso and poet Waly Salomão).
There's a lovely northeastern lilt to the set, due partly to the inclusion of jaunty baiões by Luiz Gonzaga, along with songs by Chico César and Lenine. As usual, Bethânia recites plenty of poetry this may be somewhat baffling if you don't know Portuguese, but don't let it put you off. The lady's got a decided flare for the spoken word, and excellent taste besides. (You might even find yourself gravitating toward these tracks, as I have.) In all, a show worth savoring.
Track Listing: Recital na Boite Barroco 1. Marginâlia II; 2. Carinhoso; 3. Se todos fossem iguais a você; 4.
Último Desejo; 5. Camisa Listrada; 6. Marino; 7. O que tinha de ser; 8. Molambo; 9. Lama; 10. Pano
Legal; 11. Café Soçiate; 12. Pé da Roseira; 13. Ela falava nisso todo dio; 14. Baby; 15. Maria, Maria.
Maricotinha Ao Vivo Disc One: 1. Overture: Dionisia Número 1; 2. A Moça do Sonho; 3. Sou
eu Mesmo o Trocado; 4. O Quereres; 5. Pau-de-Arara; 6. Dona do Dom; 7. Festa;
8. A Moça do
Sonho (reprise); 9. Eu Não Sabia, Tu Não Sabias; 10. Fotografia; 11. Anos Dourados; 12. Todo o
Amor Que Houver Nessa Vida; 13. De Todas as Maneiras; 14. Eu Quero Ser Possuida Por Você;
15. Seu Jeito de Amar; 16. Negue; 7. Sobre Todas as Coisas; 18. Sob Medida; 19. Casinha Branca;
20. O Canto da Dona Sinhá; 21. O Tempo e o Rio; 22. Menininha; 23. Le Lac de Come; 24. Poema
do Menino Jesus; 25. O Doce Mistério da Vida
Disc Two: 1. A Voz de Uma Pessoa Vitoriosa; 2. Maricotinha; 3. Baila Comigo/Shangrilá; 4. Cantada
(Depois de Ter Você); 5. Nossa Canção; 6. Sábado em Copacabana; 7. Boites; 8. Se Eu Morresse
de Saudades; 9. Boites Sampa; 10. Ronda; 11. Âlibi; 12. Nem Sol, Nem Lua, Nem Eu; 13. Quando o
Amor Vacila; 14. Noite de Estrelas; 15. Quem É Essa Agora; 16. Pra Rua Me Levar; 17. Senhores,
Sou um Poeta; 18. Apesar de Você; 19. A Moça do Sonho (reprise); 20. Opinião; 21. Rosa dos
Ventos; 22. E Depois de Uma Tarde; 23. Amor de Índio; 24. Coração Ateu
Personnel: Recital na Boite Barroco : Maria Bethânia, vocals; Terra Trio, piano, bass, drums, backing
Maricotinha Ao Vivo : Maria Bethânia, vocals; Jaime Alem, guitars, voice, keyboards,
arranger; João Carlos Coutinho, piano, keyboards, accordion; João Castilho, electric and acoustic
guitars, viola caipira; Romulo Gomes, acoustic and electric bass; Márcio Mallard, cello; Bernardo
Bessler and Ricardo Amado, violin; Carlos Balla, drums; Reginaldo Vargas, percussion
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.