There are certain types of music that just wouldn't be the same without the accordion. One is Louisiana zydeco. Another is norteño/Tex-Mex, a Mexican-American form that combines Mexican ranchera with the German polka beat. And in Brazil, the accordion has played a prominent role in baião, a style that comes from the northeastern part of the country. If the seminal Luiz Gonzaga was the King of Baião, Sivuca is certainly among the people who belongs in the royal palace. The singer/accordion virtuoso doesn't play baião exclusively -- he can handle anything from choro to bossa nova -- but baião is certainly one of his strong points. And he shows his versatility on Gravado ao Vivo, which offers a diverse program of baião, choro, and samba. This Brazilian reissue focuses on a 1977 concert at Teatro João Caetano in Rio de Janeiro, where Sivuca shared the stage and the spotlight with guitarist Rosinha de Valença. The performances on this album range from instrumentals (which include Pixinguinha's "Lamento" and the Gonzaga standard "Asa Branca") to vocal offerings such as the melancholy "Reunião de Tristeza" (a Sivuca original) and the well-known "Adeus, Maria Fulô." While "Tema do Boneco de Palha" becomes a showcase for de Valença's acoustic guitar, "Asa Branca" is a perfect example of accordion-powered baião. It should be noted that Sivuca and de Valença don't play together on all of the selections -- they share the spotlight, and only on "Asa Branca" and "Lamento" do they actually play together. But whether Sivuca or de Valença (or both) is enjoying the spotlight, Gravado ao Vivo is a pleasing document of that 1977 concert in Rio.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson