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Vinicius Cantuaria and Bebel Gilberto at Celebrate Brooklyn

Ernest Barteldes By

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Vinicius Cantuaria and Bebel Gilberto
Brasil Summerfest at Celebrate Brooklyn
Brooklyn, New York
July 18, 2014

On the opening night of the third edition of the city-wide Brasil Summerfest, guitarist Vinicius Cantuaria took the stage with his quintet. He played a semi-acoustic guitar and started with a syncopated instrumental interlude that led into Gilberto Gil's "Procissão," a tune whose irony-filled lyrics wax critical against the blind faith of religious communities in Brazil. His delivery was quite personal, often singing down to a whisper, and leaving plenty of space for his improvisational riffing style and pianist Helio Alves's grooves. He did the same with Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Ligia," singing the melody at first quietly, then stretching certain notes in a higher octave.

Cantuaria is not one to reproduce his recorded music on stage, so he often reinvents and recreates tunes, either changing their tempos or completely changing their arrangements. An example of this is "Você Tá Sumindo," a track from Cymbals (2005, Naive). On the studio recording, the tune has a straightforward choro-like feel, but in a live format it was played like a contemporary bossa, again giving plenty of space for improvisation. Halfway through the set he was joined by singer/songwriter Jesse Harris (best known for penning "Don't Know Why" for Norah Jones), who sang lead on a new tune they co-wrote together.

After a brief break, Bebel Gilberto took to the stage backed by an eight-piece band that included a violinist and a cellist. Though the audience probably expected her to perform a hit-filled set, Gilberto decided to take a gamble: most of her performance included tunes from Tudo (Sony, 2014), which had not yet been released at the time of the performance. The risk clearly misfired, since by the fourth number you could see the jam-packed Prospect Park Band shell empty considerably. Gilberto seemed unfazed, and kept on going with lots of energy, dancing and gyrating during the band's short solo moments.

There were a few mishaps in the first few minutes: there were technical issues with the guitar right at the beginning of the set, and Gilberto ("following my father's direction," she said) stopped a couple of times to have her microphone adjusted—but that did not mar the performance.

Gilberto did include a handful of her best known songs, including "Simplesmente," "Cada Beijo" and "Momento," all well received by the fans. Cantuária joined her on stage to play pandeiro on some tunes, but the definitive highlight came when she invited Baby do Brasil to duet with her on Caetano Veloso's "Baby." It was not a duet per se, since they barely sang any of the lyrics—instead they improvised around the melody in English and Portuguese, and then do Brasil added her trademark jazz-inflected scatting with her rich contralto. The set ended with an extended take on Gilberto's "Sem Contenção," a samba-inflected dance song from Tanto Tempo (Ziriguiboom, 2000) that has become a staple of her performances, thanks to its high energy and lively beat.

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