JAZZ: The bossest nova
Sunday 14 March 1999
Ronnie Scott's, London
Brazilian bossa nova sounds like nothing so much as an impossibly elongated sigh. From the perspective of a cold country, the sensual shuffle- rhythms, languid acoustic guitar-chords and poetic Portuguese lyrics combine to create the musical equivalent of sand between the toes, transporting the listener to an exotic dream world. As Vinicius Canturia sings, "Let love arrive completely. It alone brings transformation. Feel this love, strong, Brazilian. Around the house love, inspiration," you feel your toes push through the soles of your shoes. Even in the less than-tropical environment of Ronnie Scott's on a cold Wednesday night, the spell of bossa nova still works its magic.
There has to be a willing suspension of disbelief, however. This debut British performance by Canturia and his three musicians was being given as part of a record company showcase during the club's early evening dead- time, and the governing ambience was perhaps more industrial than sensual. Even as Canturia sings, you're aware that soon the cleaners will be vacuuming the carpets and rearranging the tables and chairs in readiness for business as usual later that night. As long as the music lasts, though, it's heavenly.
Canturia is a singer, guitarist and songwriter whose adaptations of traditional styles have made him one of the leading figures in contemporary Brazilian music. On the one hand, Canturia represents a rapprochement with the original bossa nova style, but on the other, he has borrowed elements from both dance music and the New York avant-garde (Laurie Anderson guests on his new album) to create a new hybrid. He also works frequently with the American guitarist Arto Lindsay, with whom he forms, along with artists like the singer Marisa Monte, a sort of bossa-nova new wave.
For one of the songs in his brief showcase, Canturia brought Lindsay out of the audience to duet with him. The resulting effect, with Canturia's mellow vocals harmonising with Lindsay's Lou Reed-like whine, was a perfect demonstration of the new style's cultural mix. Accompanied by drums, cello and trumpet, the music was both as languid and as melancholy as you could wish for.
The other showcase act was from another world entirely. Bugge Wesseltoft's New Conception of Jazz come from Norway, look like rocket scientists, and sound like a mixture of Erik Satie, early Miles Davis electric fusion, and drum'n'bass. Their drummer, Anders Engen, has seemingly perfected what is one of the rarest things in jazz: a new sound. Playing a conventional drum-kit that is miked up so sensitively that even the lightest of brush- strokes comes across as heavier than gravity, Engen creates a shifting backdrop of electronic beats with nothing more than sticks and skins. The rest of the music is interesting, and Wesseltoft on keyboards manages to balance the demands of a proper piano, two electronic keyboards and various gizmos very effectively. But really, I'd pay just to hear the drummer on his own.
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