Luciana Souza & Romero Lubambo in Toronto

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An Affair to Remember
Concert Review: Luciana Souza & Romero Lubambo

By Raul da Gama

No matter where in the world you come from or live, the seductive lure of Brasil is not only hard to resist, but of a singular nature as well. It has something to do with the food, the beaches with their attendant bodies beautiful and sensual; it is the jungles of the Amazon and the great river itself—sights and sounds so to speak, but most of all the mystique of that great country has to do with the music and musicians that it continues to beguile the world with. On April 21, 2012, two of its finest proponents were at The Toronto Center for the Arts driving an audience by turns speechless and gracefully insane.

The celebrated duo of spectacular vocalist and part-time percussionist Luciana Souza and the great guitarist Romero Lubambo played non-stop for almost two hours and had the small, but knowledgeable audience spellbound. Their repertoire included classic charts from the Bossa Nova era, notably works composed by the legendary Brasileiro, Tom Jobim, a couple of choro and all of this was spiced up with a bit of Maracatú, baião, frevo and more. Souza is a vocalist with an almost three octave range and she sings with exceeding beauty. She resembles a swallow in flight, fluttering her lyrical wings as she soars upward and swoops downward. Souza also has a wonderful sense of drama and often she can bring operatic beauty to the music she delivers. There were several moments like this especially when she sang Jobim’s “Doralice” at breakneck speed and when she delivered a spectacular version of another Jobim classic, “So Danço Samba,” playing the vampish, drunken nightclub singer to the hilt. There were also a classic chart from the pen of another Brasilian legend, Toninho Horta, and a superb love song from Souza’s Pablo Neruda album and mixed in were also charts form the Great American Songbook.

Romero Lubambo comes from a long and celebrated and seemingly endless line of guitarists, who owe a debt to some of the great cavaquinho players such as Paulinho da Viola, and include great names such as Laurindo Almeida, Toninho Horta, Carlos Barbosa-Lima, Egberto Gismonti, Guinga, Marcos Tardelli, and Yamandú Costa. Lubambo showed his virtuosic side, blending the classical side with contemporary, improvisational aspects of guitar wizardry. Throughout the evening he showed why he is a first call guitarist with musicians as far removed as Yo-Yo Ma is from Claudio Roditi. More importantly, Lubambo, who has already forged a long and beautiful musical relationship with Souza, appeared to be joined at the hip with the vocalist, often seeming to anticipate where she was taking a song just as she would when he was soloing. Both Souza and Lubambo also announced that they would be releasing a third duo album on the Sunnyside Records in a little over a month and if the repertoire they played together at the concert was any indication, the record would be something to truly look forward to.

The main act of the night was preceded by the Canadian composer and pianist Amanda Tosoff and her quartet. Theirs was a short set and included material from the three albums Tosoff has released so far. The group made a last-minute change by adding Toronto celebrated bassist, Jon Maharaj, who replaced Tosoff’s regular bassist, Sean Cronin. Maharaj showed why he is so much in demand with exemplary reading of material which must have not been that familiar to him. Tosoff is a composer with a rare talent for harmonic invention. She seems to write sharply and edgily for woodwinds as well as sensitively with uncommonly beautiful viscosity for piano, she eschewed elaborate virtuoso displays during her solos, preferring brevity of harmonic statement instead. Her writing is characterized with a melodic bass line, something she probably picked up from listening carefully to the great Herbie Nichols. Saxophonist, Chris Gale was beautifully understated, especially on soprano saxophone, but his moist tone rolled exquisitely into Tosoff’s beautiful charts, “New” and “Sad Clown” from her album Wait and See. At the opposite end was drummer Morgan Childs, a wonderful percussion colorist who also provided much of the character for the quartet. The Amanda Tosoff Quartet has much to offer and her new album “Looking North” shows every indication of a deeper maturation of one of the celebrated young Canadian talents.

The Jazz Performance and Education Centre is committed to supporting the development of the next generation of jazz musicians and audience members. Through programming for students and fans of all ages, JPEC is seeking to instil a love of jazz today in those that will create and support the music tomorrow.

JPEC – www.jazzcentre.ca – is the result of collaboration between business people, musicians and arts professionals who are passionate about jazz in Toronto. Officially incorporated in 2008, the concept for the Jazz Performance and Education Centre was born in 2007 when jazz aficionados Raymond and Rochelle Koskie assembled a committee of fellow enthusiasts to address the need for a full-time jazz venue in Toronto. This first-class, multi-purpose facility will feature performances by top local, national and international jazz talent, educational programming in which fans of all ages can learn about jazz, recording facilities, a Hall of Fame and Archives which will encompass and preserve Canada’s outstanding jazz heritage and tradition. The facility will enhance Toronto’s reputation as one of the best cities in North America in which to experience live jazz.

Photo Gallery by Atael Weissman

 

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