When she performs solo, as she did for an achingly beautiful sequence of classic bossa novas, including Jobim's "Aguas de Marco" - one of the most poetic songs ever written - her guitar-playing was so swooningly articulate that it was like hearing a one-woman orchestra. Joined by her band - a dream of a group - for the remainder of the show, the collective musical sensitivity was close to overpowering. And did I mention that she also sings and scats like an angel, looks divine in a new Amelie hairstyle, and jokes with the audience in both English and Portuguese?
So why isn't Joyce Silveira Palhano de Jesus (born Rio de Janeiro, 1948), an enormous star? Maybe it's an ingrained English association of her name with that of Joyce Grenfell, with whom it's hard to imagine inhabiting a tropical empire of the senses. But more likely it's to do with jazz. For Joyce (in her native country the J is soft) is unmistakably a jazz artist, her style adding a further layer of subtle improvisation to bossa nova, already one of the most subtle forms of music ever devised. In truth, she's simply too good, and her music too complex, to win mass appeal or match World Music's demand for exotic essence above all else.
Although Joyce does lots of things uncommonly well, her trademark has become high-register scat-singing against a loping, samba-derived pulse, as demonstrated brilliantly on "Joaozinho Boa Pinta". There was plenty of that, but other highlights included a marathon sax solo from Nailor Proveta, the continually inventive drumming of Tutty Moreno, and the backing vocals of bassist Rudolpho Stroeter, with whom Joyce duetted on the famous "Samba da Bencao", by Baden Powell (not the scout leader). By the end, you felt healed.
Joyce's album 'Rio Bahia' is out now on Far Out records