Brazilian singer-songwriter Vinicius Cantuaria has said that moving to New York in the mid-90s gave him the freedom to develop his own take on his native traditions. As a teenager Cantuaria played in the early-70s Brazilian prog-rock band O Terco before delving into bossa nova; he spent ten years as Caetano Veloso’s guitarist, and both Veloso and Gal Costa recorded some of his songs. A number of slick solo bossa albums in the 80s brought him moderate success, but his creative breakthrough came when he started working with Arto Lindsay, who produced his first American album. On the three gorgeous recordings he’s made since arriving in the U.S., Cantuaria adds unusual instrumental colors to the bossa nova and toys with the form without stripping away its grace and sensuality. Last year’s superb Vinicius (Transparent Music) is the most experimental of the lot, although the volume rarely rises above the level of polite conversation. Cantuaria and his supporting cast of downtown jazz types (including guitarists Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot, drummer Joey Baron, pianist Brad Mehldau, and bassist Marc Johnson) shape each note with exquisite patience and precision while leaving room for misty flourishes around the edges of the songs. Jenny Scheinman suspends cumulus clouds of violin over “Cliche do cliche” and “Irapuru,” while “Ordinaria” rides on a constricted bass throb before opening into a lustrous chorus. Cantuaria doesn’t entirely shy away from tradition: on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Ela e carioca” Frisell’s guitar arpeggios simulate the chill piano playing of Joao Donato for a classic bossa nova feel, while elsewhere the guitars combine with Mehldau’s piano to create the style’s distinctive harmonies. In his first visit to Chicago since the 1999 World Music Festival, Cantuaria is joined by percussionist Paulo Braga, trumpeter Michael Leonhart, and bassist Paul Socolow. Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt of the Sea and Cake open the show with a duet performance. Saturday, December 14, 9 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Nitin Vadukul.