Thursday, February 17, 2005

Brazil comes to Buffalo, part one

Last Sunday I saw Luciana Souza's concert with pianist Edward Simon at the Albright-Knox here in Buffalo, part of the gallery's "Microsoft Art of Jazz" series. I confess I was a little nervous at the outset; I'm not a huge fan of the soprano-plus-piano combo to begin with, and the opening number left me kinda cold. But Souza's range of material is amazing, from her own settings of poems by Pablo Neruda to Jobim chestnuts to American standards she picked up from Chet Baker and Billie Holiday to choro, and so on and so on. And she's a wonderfully natural stage performer with a great sense of humor; my favorite part of the afternoon was hearing her stories between songs.

None of this inspired me to pick up one of her albums at the show. I'm intrigued by them; but they seem at first glance to be single-concept affairs, whereas the strength of the live concert was her aforementioned ability to pick and choose from each of these projects. Even so, I felt the record-shopping jones, so I headed to the used bin at the nearest Record Theater (big sale on Sunday), where I found two gems for next to nothing: Vinicius Cantuária's Sol Na Cara and Aphex Twin's Drukqs. This pair might seem to have little in common, but, weirdly enough, the little squiggles of noise running through some of Cantuaria's songs could have come straight from any number of Aphex songs, and the opening track on disc one of Drukqs (with the quintessentially Aphex-y title "Jynweythek") is surprisingly delicate (sounds like some sort of hammered dulcimer action, of all things) and wouldn't be out of place at all as a backing track on Vinicius' album. Go figure.

For the record, the Aphex album seems fine, but other than that opening number and some pure piano tracks, most of it sounds like stuff he's already done elsewhere. I'd heard this criticism when the album first came out, but now I really get it. And I don't care all that much, because it's still nice (in its own sometimes-nasty way). Cantuária's disc is even better. Since I didn't recognize the title, I was worried that it would be one of his earlier schlocky pop albums I've been warned against, but nope, it's a delight.

So I went home happy: lovely concert on a snowy afternoon, couple of unrelated albums, a bunch of work postponed.

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