Vinicius Cantuária

Live: Skirball Cultural Center 8/7/03

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Recorded live in Los Angeles in August and released in October 2003, the latest album from Brazilian master guitarist Vinicius Cantuaria delivers fully on the promise of his studio outings and provides a snapshot of the artist as firmly in the present as he can be. The 12 tracks cover two CDs, there are only four on Disc One, and they showcase the sound of a band completely under the spell of their leader. Cantuaria handles all the guitar chores himself, and is assisted by his regular touring band with Paulinho Braga, percussionist Nanby Assis, and bassist Sergio Brandao. Downtown New York "scene" stalwart Jenny Scheinman helps on violin, adding depth, dimension, warmth, and the hint of a chaotic edge. Things kick off on a near mystical bent with "Procissao," a 14-minute Tropicalia jam where guitars and violins solo seemingly at will, weaving a dreamy soundscape that flows from and into the ether. Samba makes its rightful entrance -- albeit colored by the blues -- on "Sem Pisar No Chao," co-written with Caetano Veloso. The band floats jazzy, open, and wistful in the skeletal arrangement, as rhythm dictates the subtle harmonic and melodic shifts. "Ligia," is a gorgeous samba in the old style, a blues bossa, actually, that lilts and twirls on a three-note figure as its axis. "O Nome Dela" is the most angular piece on the entire set. Written with Arto Lindsay, it is a showcase for Jenny Scheinman's Eastern-tinged violin as she creates minor architectures from Hebrew and Egyptian folk melodies on top of the bossa rhythms. Cantuaria lays open a couple of power chords trying to rein it in, but by then the band is off spinning into other terrains. Disc Two is more song-oriented, and plays with pop music forms. While "Cubanos Postizos," is a traditional acoustic folk song, "Rio," co-authored with David Byrne, is an elegant and exotic funk tune done in samba style. The set ends with "Vivo Isolado do Mundo," a lithe, languid ballad, that opens up into a full-on deep samba jam. It's an astonishing set, really, full of ebb and flow, and aural seduction. It deepens and widens the considerable reputation Mr. Cantuaria already enjoys.

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