New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: bossa nova

Cape Verdean Singer Lucibela Charms and Energizes the Crowd in Her New York Debut

In her New York debut last night at Merkin Concert Hall, Cape Verde singer Lucibela delivered a mix of pensive morna ballads and bouncy coladera dance tunes with considerably more depth and gravitas than her limited if stylistically vast recorded repertoire has hinted at so far A sold-out crowd who’d followed those hints, or had seen her before – the home island posse was in full effect for this show – sang and danced along to a dynamically shifting mix of Portuguese-language songs reflecting issues of distance and alienation, and sometimes just good times off the west coast of Africa.

The World Music Institute’s Gaby Sappington – who’d booked this show – explained that she’d chosen Lucibela to open their 2019-20 season and keep the spirit of late-summer vacationing alive, if only for an evening. Yet the most explosively applauded number of the night was a brooding, bolero-tinged ballad where the bandleader finally reached for the rafters with her cool alto voice, channeling abandonment and destitution.

It took her awhile to get to that point. Rocking a mane of an afro and dressed in a simple white-and-beige linen dress and sandals, she sang with an elegant understatement for most of the evening. Her four-piece backing band were tight and methodical. Seven-string acoustic guitarist Ze Antonio alternated between graceful, steady chords, swinging basslines on his low strings, and the night’s most shivery, breathtaking instrumental break. Purposeful, incisive lead guitarist Daya Nieves switched to melodica on a handful of songs, alongside carvaquinho (Brazilian ukulele) player Stephane and drummer Nir, who balanced graceful rimshots and a mist of cymbals over a groove that often slunk into clave.

Lucibela began the night very demurely but as the trajectory of the songs rose from stately morna ballads to more kinetic, often bossa-tinged coladera numbers, she warmed to the audience and by the end of the show had them on their feet and dancing. The night’s funniest song was Profilaxia, a sardonically romping tune about a guy who just can’t get enough of the females. That was her moment to flirt with the dudes in the front row. Meanwhile, the guitars intertwined, the carvaquinho plinked, and influences from across the waves – from dramatic flamenco to stark Romany music to Portuguese fado and French cabaret – filtered through the mix.

The World Music Institute‘s ongoing series of concerts continues this Sept 22 at 8 PM at Merkin Concert Hall once again with Indian sitarist Purbayan Chatterjee and tabla player Ojas Adhiya; you can get in for $25.

Lucibela Brings Cape Verde’s Many Ocean-Borne Flavors to Manhattan on the 17th

Although the death of Cesaria Evora left a gaping hole in the global music pantheon, she’s hardly the only good singer to come out of the Cape Verde Islands. New York fans of plaintive morna ballads and bouncy coladera songs have a prime opportunity to be immersed in that stuff when the World Music Institute brings Cape Verde singer Lucibela here to make her debut her at Merkin Concert Hall on Sept 17 at 8 PM. You can get in for $25.

Cape Verde was occupied by Portugal for many years. Just as many Puerto Ricans moved to the US in search of a better life, many islanders, Lucibela included, have relocated to their former colonizer. That explains the title of her 2018 album Laço Umbilical, meaning “umbilical cord,” a reference to longing for home as well as the fact that she ended up moving there to be close to her daughter. The record has since been tweaked and reissued as Ti Jon Poca, streaming at Spotify.

Where Evora was smoky and sometimes boozy, Lucibela is distinct and rather restrained throughout this mix of Portuguese-language standards and a couple of new reinventions. Toy Vieira’s spiky acoustic guitar is the primary instrument, backed by spare bass and percussion. There’s a lot of music on this record, and it’s a lot more eclectic than you might imagine. The opening track, Chica di Nha Maninha distantly reflects Spanish Romany music and has biting soprano sax.

If somebody felt like translating Sodadi Casa to English, it could pass for a Jimmy Webb countrypolitan song from the 60s. Sai Fora, with Algerian crooner Sofiane Saidi, is a mind-warping mashup of chaabi, morna and what could be Tom Waits.

Angolan singer Bonga adds an imploringly gritty cameo in Dona Ana, a slinky, melancholy bolero in disguise. Stapora do Diabo an unselfconsciously gorgeous number with tasty, chromatically spiced guitar and sax. Lucibela and band take a sparkly detour into bossa nova with Porto Novo Vila Crioula, then go dusky with Laço Umbilical, which with a fatter low end could be Jamaican rocksteady.

Profilaxia isn’t just clean (sorry) – it’s one of the album’s most sprightly numbers, as is Mi E Dode Na Bo Cabo Verde. With its brooding cello, Arku da Bedja is the closest thing to Mediterranean balladry here. Then Lucibela picks up the pace again with the carefree Novo Olhar; Violeiro, a delicate bossa rtune, is much the same. She winds up the album with the title cut, which more than hints at flamenco. As is typically the case with music sung by women in her part of the world, themes of distance and longing permeate this diverse collection: coastal civilizations tend to be fertile crucibles for cross-pollination.

A Clown-Free Valentine’s Day Show at Lincoln Center

Obviously, if you run a music blog in a town where there are over 230 fulltime venues, it pays to get out as much as possible. This blog takes three official vacation days a year: New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and St. Paddy’s. What’s out there in the clubs on those three nights is almost inevitably worse than what’s onstage.

If Celtic sounds are your thing, you can wait til the 18th when all the amateurs are still at home recovering. New Year’s Eve is a ripoff pretty much everywhere, and Valentine’s Day is cheese central. Venues that wouldn’t ordinarily consider booking a Justin Beiber cover band blink and and hope that there are enough Jersey tourists to justify torturing the sound guy and waitstaff for a night.

But this year there is a show on Valentine’s Day that’s neither cheesy nor extortionistic, and that’s Cape Verde singer/guitarist Tcheka’s gig at 7:30 PM at the atrium space at Lincoln Center on Broadway just north of 62nd St. As with the rest of the mostly-weekly early evening shows here, there’s no cover, although the seats tend to get taken as early as an hour before showtime.

Tcheka’s album Boka Kafe is streaming at Bandcamp. He plays solo acoustic guitar, with flair and flurrying energy in an individualistic style that draws on samba, bossa nova, soukous and even funk in places. Which makes sense: music from island nations tends to be a mashup of everything that’s blown in on the trade winds. He sings in an earnest tenor voice, with a smoky falsetto, in his native vernacular and also in Portuguese.

He chops his way through thickets of rainy-day jazz chords on several of the album’s faster numbers; on one, he strums into rapidfire flamenco territory. The quieter songs have a lingering luminosity with echoes of Portuguese fado balladry. And his hooks are catchy: you walk away humming them. Lyrics are a big deal for this guy – themes of the rigors of rural island life, coastal mythology and on one track here, women’s rights are front and center, so his music will resonate most with those who can understand them. But fans of tropical acoustic sounds also ought to check out Tcheka (sorry – couldn’t resist).

Les Nubians Charm the Kids and Their Parents Too at the French Alliance

What if you told your six-year-old that you were going to take them to a performance that was educational, multicultural, rhythmically challenging and completely G-rated? They’d probably tell you to get lost, right? Well, late yesterday morning the French Alliance staged a program that was all that…and the kids loved it.

French-Cameroonian duo Les Nubians – sisters Helene and Celia Faussart – celebrate sisterhood, unity and Africanness in ways that aren’t cliched, or annoyingly P.C., or patronizing. Their music is sophisticated, blending elements of American soul, central African folk, downtempo, funk, bossa nova and hip-hop, to name a few styles. And much as all these genres got a similarly multicultural, vividly New York crowd of kids and their parents dancing and swaying along, you wanna know what energized the kids the most? A detour into an ancient Cameroonian folk dance fueled by balafonist François Nnang’s gracefully kinetic flourishes, the crowd spontaneously clapping along with its offbeat triplet rhythm. Some things are so innately wholesome that kids automatically gravitate toward them, and the folks at the French Alliance are keenly aware of that.

Age groups quickly separated out: gradeschoolers and preschoolers down front, filling the first two rows, tapping out a rhythm along with the band onstage, singing and dancing along as their parents watched bemusedly from the back rows. The crowd was pretty much split down the middle genderwise, at least among the kids, boys just as swept up as the girls in the pulsing grooves and the Faussart sisters’ irrepressible good cheer, charisma and dance moves. Their parents got a 90s nostalgia fix via a playful, French-language remake of the Sade hit The Sweetest Taboo, along with songs like the pensive Demaind (Jazz) from the group’s 1998 debut album, and the spiky, catchy Makeda. Guitarist Masaharu Shimizu played eclectically and energietically over animated, globally fluent clip-clup percussion by Shaun Kell.

Les Nubians have a handle on what kids like. They worked a trajectory upward, enticing the kids to mimic their dance moves, getting some call-and-response going, up to a couple of well-received singalongs (employing some complex close harmonies rarely if ever heard in American pop music). The big hit of the day was the Afro Dance, Helene swinging her dreads around like a dervish. The show was briskly and smartly paced, holding everyone’s attention throughout just a bit more than forty-five minutes. Considering the venue, the sisters took turns addressing the crowd in both French and also in good English; Helene seems to be the main translator of the two. Their repartee with the children was direct and unselfconsciously affectionate – both women taking plenty of time to highfive all the kids down front to make sure that nobody was left out – but the two didn’t talk down to the children either.

Out of this blog’s posse, the hardest member to please is usually Annabel. She’s six – woops, make that six and a half. She spent most of the first half of the show occupied with some actually very sweet sisterly bonding with her friend Ava, age seven, whom she hadn’t seen in awhile. By the twenty-minute mark, both girls had run to the front, Annabel right up at the edge of the stage, transfixed. She got a highfive from Helene; meanwhile, Ava was getting a workout along with the rest of the dancers. What was most striking was that both girls could have been very blasé about this concert: neither is culturally deprived. But they both had a rousingly good time…and were ready for a big lunch afterward.

The French Alliance has all kinds of fun bilingual events and experiences for families on the weekend: this concert was just one example of how kids can get an exposure to cultures and languages they might not ordinarily encounter. As just one example, there are a whole bunch of free workshops for toddlers, preschoolers and their parents this coming Saturday, December 12 in the early afternoon.

A Lushly Gorgeous Global Party Album and a Subculture Show from Banda Magda

Banda Magda‘s previous album Amour, T’es La put a shimmery equatorial spin on bouncy vintage French ye-ye pop. Their new album, Yerakina (streaming at Bandcamp) is a lot more diverse, considerably darker, and has a much more global reach – and it’s pretty amazing. This time out, frontwoman/accordionist Magda Giannikou – who also plays the ancient Greek lanterna, a hauntingly rippling instrument – explores styles from the Mediterranean to the Amazon and many points in between. She sings in a warm, searching high soprano, much in the same vein as another A-list global songwriter, Natacha Atlas, and has a band to match the songs’ ambitious scope. They’re playing the album release show at 10 PM on Oct 4 at Subculture; advance tix are $18 and highly recommended. Much as Banda Magda’s albums are inventively arranged and lushly orchestrated, the band really kicks out the jams onstage.

The album opens with Sabia, a bubbly, shuffling, accordion-fueled mashup of salsa, Belgian musette, Mediterranean sun-song and a wry hint of cumbia. El Pescador, a hit for Colombia’s Totó La Momposina, gets done as a lush, elegant flamenco-jazz number, Giannikou’s balmy, pillowy vocals floating over stately piano and strings. Trata, a gorgeously swaying Middle Eastern-tinged Greek party tune with rippling hammered dulcimer, cheery brass and animated guy/girl vocals, takes on additional bulk and heft as the arrangement grows.

They contrast that with Luis Gonzaga’s Doralice, reinvented as a dancing miniature for Petros Klampanis’ bass, Giannikou’s vocals and a hint of tropical organ. The album’s title track is a swoony yet kinetic, lavishly orchestrated Greek ballad. The plaintively swinging lament Petite Fleur sounds like Chicha Libre in low-key, brooding mode, a psychedelic cumbia done as French chamber pop, while Karotseris blends Henry Mancini Vegas noir with creepy hi-de-ho swing and late 60s French psych-pop.

The album’s longest track, Cucurucu Paloma is also its quietest and most hypnotic, a hazy blend of rustic Brazilian rainforest folk and lingering psychedelia. With Giannikou’s rapidfire, precise Portuguese vocals, the final cut, Vinicius de Moraes’ Senza Paura keeps the equatorial flavor simmering as it picks up the pace. Whatever continents Banda Magda touch down on here, they find themselves at home; this is one of 2014’s best and most disarmingly charming albums.

Titanic, Tongue-in-Cheek Pakistani Versions of Western Classics

[originally published at New York Music Daily’s sister blog Lucid Culture]

The Sachal Studios Orchestra‘s latest album Jazz and All That is more all that than it is jazz – and it is all that, most definitely. The Pakistani orchestral ensemble plays Bollywood-style versions of popular Western themes with a titanic, epic Mahlerian/Spector-esque power, driven mainly by a massive string section. Their shtick is to substitute South Asian instruments like sitar, sarangi, wood flute and tabla in place of piano, sax or drum kit when it comes time for solos. They also prove perfectly competent at playing styles from around the world in their original idioms, without any distinguishable Pakistani/Indian flavor, demonstrated here via a vividly Celtic-tinged version of Morning Has Broken and a lavish, string-driven cover of Jobim’s iconic bossa nova hit, Wave. They’re at Rose Theatre at Jazz at Lincoln Center at 8 PM on Nov 22 and 23, where they’ll be collaborating with Wynton Marsalis’ JALC Orchestra. It’s hard to imagine a more potentially explosive cross-cultural orchestral collaboration on any New York stage in recent memory.

The album opens with a full-throttle vamp through Stevie Wonder’s You’ve Got It Bad Girl, with sitar, flute and harmonium over a Bacharach-esque groove. The French chanson favorite If You Go Away (Si Tu Dois Partir) is as much art-rock as it is cinematic theme, a long, sweeping crescendo building as the thicket of percussion grows denser, handing off to terse vibraphone and then piano solos. Moonlight in Vermont opens with a conversation between sitar and fiddle, then a slide guitar, a hypnotically tricky, rhythmic but aptly dreamy reinterpretation that may well be the best version of this old chesnut ever recorded.

Monsoon, by Wazir Afzal, a trip-hop song, is the most hypnotic number here, flavored with moody harmonica, a long trumpet solo handing off to the sitar. The orchestra’s version of the Pink Panther theme is oldschool Bollywood as S.D. Burman would have done it; they wait til the fourth time through the verse to go completely over-the-top with the sitar. The comedy continues with Ponteio, by Edu Lobo, redone as Pakistani disco with a jawharp intro, bass flute and then harmonica adding gravitas to this otherwise airy vamp. And to the orchestra’s massive credit – pun intended – they manage not only to not butcher Eleanor Rigby, but to beef up the original’s macabre surrealism with a barrage of strings which actually push the delicately nuanced sitar line out of the sonic picture.

The worst song on the album is the weepy early 90s REM hit Everybody Hurts…but by eliminating the vocals and doing it as a stunningly simple Americana waltz, albeit with stark traditional fiddle and harmonium, it’s completely transformed into a catchy lullaby. The best and longest song on the album is the Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays tune To the End of the World, which they reinvent as an uneasily glimmering Isaac Hayes-style crime-jazz theme, bluesy piano and dancing bass paired off against the sitar over a black velvet groove. The Dave Brubeck classic Blue Rondo a la Turk is the closest thing to the original here: lavish as it is, the sitar lead sticks very close to Brubeck’s piano line.  And Kafi Jazz (Five Rivers), by Baqir Abbas has the sitar leading a lush, uneasy bossa groove, the tsunami of strings again subsuming the lead instruments, nimble acoustic guitar and then a sitar/guitar exchange brightening the mist. Fans of all of the above artists will find this anything from exhilarating to maddeningly weird to LMAO funny, all of which seem to be the point of this irrepressible large ensemble.

An Auspicious Kickoff to Daphne Lee Martin’s Late Winter Tour

Midway through a rather ominous minor-key reggae song, Daphne Lee Martin’s keyboardist played most of a verse from Besame Mucho, using a glockenspiel setting to max out the menace. That was one of the high points of her show last night at the Way Station in Fort Greene, the unlikely setting for the first stop on her current tour which winds its way down to South by Southwest. Once word of her new album Moxie gets out, it’s not likely she’ll be playing places like the Way Station. She and her fantastic band Raise the Rent did most of that album, in sequence, with an exuberant expertise to match its eclectic style. Martin’s down-to-earth, uncluttered but finely nuanced alto voice might remind you of June Christy or Erica Smith, which makes sense since she and Smith were bandmates around the turn of the past century.

Martin and her five-piece band opened with Sweet & Low Down, a pulsing noir blues fueled by creepy funeral organ and then a fiery Strat solo from the lead guitarist that exploded in a frenzy of tremolo-picking as he went up the scale. The minor-key noir mood lingered through their second number, Whiskey & Sin, a luridly grim waltz, sort of a House of the Setting Sun: some girl in the crowd let out a scream timed perfectly to the end of the first verse as it reached a peak. Belly, a strutting vintage 70s-style soul groove, first fueled by echoey Rhodes piano and then woozily hilarious Dr. Dre-style synth, was next. Martin and band picked up the pace from there with the uneasily swinging House That Built Itself, lit up by some more bitingly bluesy lead guitar, then went scampering through Molotov with a torchy gypsy jazz-inflected intensity. Most of the night, Martin’s vocals were too low in the mix to reveal the level of detail that she typically brings to a song, but this one was a showcase for some unselfconsciously spine-tingling blue notes and melismas.

The next number, a duet with the keyboardist, had a planitive flamenco-rock feel, like the skeleton frame of an early Firewater song; then the bass and drums agilely transformed it into roots reggae in a split second. New London, Connecticut, where Martin and band have made their home for the last few years, has had a fertile music scene since the recently, tragically reduced Reducers first came up in the 80s: it’s good to see such a fantastic band representing that city on the road.

Lush Eclectic Cosmopolitan Gypsy Sounds from Quadro Nuevo

Quadro Nuevo are huge in Europe. They have a new album out, Grand Voyage, recorded between stops around the world on what seems to be an endless tour. What they play defies categorization. Is it gypsy jazz? Much of it, yes. Is it nuevo tango? Some of it. Is it Middle Eastern music? Occasionally.The eclectic band’s central instrument is Andreas Hinterseher’s accordion (and sometimes bandoneon), which lends a gypsy or tango flavor to the rest of the stuff – and there is a lot of it, eighteen tracks’ worth. The rest of the band are a diverse cast; bandleader Mulo Francel switches between saxes and clarinet, and occasionally contributes bouzouki or guitar. Concert harpist Evelyn Huber artfully employs voicings from other instruments; one moment she can sound like a cimbalom or an oud, a second later she’s playing a guitar line. Bassist D.D. Lowka also plays percussion, xylophone and cimbalom as well. The album has a sad historical significance, as it includes the last recordings of guitarist Robert Wolf, who was paralyzed in an accident in 2008.

The opening tune might technically be a bolero, but at heart it’s a ridiculously catchy ska song – just when Lowka’s cimbalom is about to raise the lushness factor to completely hypnotic, the harp signals a return of the melody and then they’re off skanking again. The second track, a samba swing tune, is a letdown – it sounds like something out of the Pink Martini catalog. But then they get back on the good foot with a charming boudoir jazz version of the 1930s Mexican pop standard Cien Anos; it’s like a Las Rubias Del Norte instrumental.

Dark, majestic and neoromantic with central Asian tinges, Krim was recorded in a onetime sultan’s palace in the Ukraine. Samba Parapente, recorded in Corsica, takes on a spiky gypsy jazz edge, followed by Hinterseher’s gypsy jazz lullaby Aus der Stille der Nacht. They reinvent Nature Boy as a jaunty tango driven by guest William Galison’s harmonica, and a suspensefully bubbly guitar solo from Wolf before going off into free jazz territory for a bit.

Die Abenteurer evokes Doris Fisher’s bittersweet torch jazz classic Whispering Grass, contrasting with Lethe, a nebulous, misterioso waltz by Wolf. The pensive Antakya maintains a misty unease, shifting from echoes of Anatolian folk to flurrying gypsy jazz.

They follow that with a couple of tangos, one upbeat and full of delicious harp, accordion and sax solos and the other a balmy nocturne recorded late at night in Kuala Lumpur. Mosaique Tunisienne, a triptych, follows a rising arc from morning to night on the wings of Huber’s eclectic harp interludes set against pensive accordion and insistent, rat-a-tat goblet drumming. The most hardcore gypsy number here is Goaz Boq Musik, inspired by jamming with Transylvanian gypsies. The album ends with a warmly enveloping nocturne and then a full orchestral reprise of the ska song that opened the album. Recorded live in concert in 2010 with the NDR Radio Symphony Orchestra, it’s a radical piece of music, and everybody has a blast with it: in its towering, epic way, it’s ska-punk like you’ve never imagined. Count this as one of the most beguiling and consistently interesting albums of 2012, out now from Quebecois label Justin Time.

Two Drummers Make a Difference

Drummers do all the heavy lifting and usually get none of the credit, so this is to give credit where it’s due. As dynamic as Jenifer Jackson and LJ Murphy are, each got to take their shows this past weekend to the next level because of who was behind the drum kit. Each show was intense, in a completely different way: Jackson dreamy and hypnotic, Murphy careening through one catchy, blues-infused rock song after another. At Rockwood Music Hall Friday night, Jackson was unselfconsciously blissed out to be playing with most of the New York crew she’d made her 2007 Outskirts of a Giant Town album with: Matt Kanelos on piano, Elysian Fields’ Oren Bloedow on guitar, Jason Mercer on bass and Greg Wieczorek behind the kit. The original Rockwood space is small, and some drummers just don’t get it, hammering away like John Bonham. From his first suspenseful brushstroke, Wieczorek set a mood and never wavered, sometimes pushing Jackson’s often inscrutable grooves with just a shaker and a muted kick beat. And when a chorus would rise to a swell, he’d let the band take it. He was just there enough to swing the beat, almost imperceptibly shifting it into bossa nova, or adding quiet, counterintuitive cymbal splashes or hi-hat accents: had he not been there, it wouldn’t have been the same.

The rest of the band seemed to be just as blissed out to be playing with Jackson. Mercer’s moody, sepulchral solo on the night’s opening song, Maybe, set the tone right off the bat; Kanelos’ tersely majestic chords gave a mesmerizing glimmer to I Remember – done here as part Beatles, part countrypolitan – and a long, psychedelic take of The War Is Done. Jackson has been a great rock singer for a long time: she’s a great jazz singer now. The way she suddenly leaped off the page impatiently as the chorus rose on the brisk bossa shuffle Suddenly Unexpectedly, and the way she spun clever little circles around the ridiculously catchy chorus of Bring on the Night was impossible to turn away from. She ended the show with a mostly solo acoustic version of The Beauty in the Emptying, a wistful country ballad on the surface, underneath a characteristically resilient, tenacious resolution not to concede defeat. From a bon vivant like Jackson, it was a logical way to end this particular reunion with a crowd of longtime fans who were just as psyched to see her as she seemed to be to see them.

Saturday at Otto’s, Murphy went in a completely diffferent direction: this time it was drummer Andrew Guterman who kept the machine from jumping the rails. It’s not like Murphy had been freed from being behind a guitar – it’s an important part of his stage act – but on account of a recent hand injury, he had to stick to just vocals at this show. But instead of doing the crooner set, Murphy pulled out all the stops and all his big rockers, seizing the opportunity to unleash some of his inner James Brown, scatting along with outros, bringing the band almost to a stop in a split second and then back up again. And for what amounted to a pickup band, these guys – Patrick McLellan on piano, Tommy Hoscheid on Les Paul and Nils Sorensen on bass – were amazingly on top of their game. And Guterman kept the energy level going through the roof without drowning out his bandmates, whether elevating the bitter Same Trick beyond mere Stax/Volt homage, or giving the inscrutably caustic Nowhere Now a drive that went over the edge into punk.

Murphy is a 99 percenter to the core, and his lyrics resonated more than ever considering what was happening in Foley Square. Whether snarling about how “crosses and pistols are slung at our hips,” ridiculing the one percenter – an “elegant tormentor stripped of all his polyester” – getting his freak on in a dungeon just a stone’s throw from Wall Street, or warning of the day when “a sermon blares all night from the roof of a radio car,” there was a defiant I-told-you-so in his carnivalesque, blues-drenched vocal assault. The band careened through the afterwork nightmare scenario of Happy Hour with a deliciously sarcastic, blissed-out attack, only to follow with the tense apprehension of Bovine Brothers, a look at the kind of future that the Occupy protestors are also warning us about, where “the hand that you’ve been pumping turns into a handsome snake, with only one regret because he’s running out of bones to break.” After winding up the set with a punishing version of the surreal late-night psychology session Blue Silence and then encoring with an equally raucous Barbed Wire Playpen (the one about the S&M hedge fund guy), the crowd still wanted more. But the excellent Highway Gimps – sort of a cross between Motorhead and My Bloody Valentine – were next on the bill.

Erik Charlston’s JazzBrasil Heats Up Lincoln Center

Artists playing music they may not have grown up with – Japanese salsa bands, Brooklynites doing Peruvian surf music or French chanson – are typically held to a higher standard of “authenticity” than those who actually grew up in the culture that produced a particular style. Even by that lofty and doubtlessly unfair standard, vibraphonist Erik Charlston’s JazzBrasil delivered last night at Jazz at Lincoln Center. This was the album release show for their new one, simply titled Hermeto, a homage to composer Hermeto Pascoal just out on Sunnyside. While he cautioned that the next time this band plays here, they may do something completely different, Charlston’s passion for Brazilian music obviously runs deep. He even sang a bouncy frevo number in a surprisingly powerful baritone, in what – to American ears, at least – sounded like pretty perfect Portuguese.

With the personnel from the album – Ted Nash on soprano sax, clarinet and flute; Mark Soskin on piano; Jay Anderson on bass; Rogerio Boccato on drums, plus Cafe (Edson Da Silva) and guest Ze Mauricio on percussion – they ran through the recorded material with blazing assurance. Vale de Ribeiro, written literally in the middle of the rainforest, made a great choice of opener, Ze Mauricio cleverly and casually anchoring it down low with a clave beat. Both Charlston and Nash took what sounded like double the number of bars for their first solos, each building an electrifying flurry as they reached the turnaround. This didn’t leave much in the way of suspense but it was great fun to watch, and both times it took raised an already seriously elevated energy level. Then with his clarinet, Nash went deep and found the next tune’s inner musette, bringing a minor-key Belgian barroom uproar to the jungle. When Anderson wasn’t holding to a terse pulse, he was going way, way up where only violins usually go, joining his bandmates as they swung through the greenery. Conversely, some of Charlston’s most gripping work was when he moved to the marimba and its more bass-heavy tones. He wove a spiky fabric of textures in tandem with the piano, particularly on a long, slowly and intensely crescendoing duo number with Soskin.

Cafe opened a slinky maracatu number with a long, clanky berimbau solo that moved from wry suspense to a more tongue-in-cheek vibe; on the last song, a tribute to Rio, Boccato chose to steer clear of the carnaval jousting between the two other percussionists and took what might have been the night’s best solo, counterintuitively pulling off and then latching back onto the beat with a long, judicious series of punches and rattling rolls that both maintained the pulse while threatening to derail it completely. Of course, when the time came, the whole unit was there to land with both feet when Charlston signaled, the second time, for a joyous reprise of the Vale de Ribeiro theme.