Vinicius Cantuaria
  • courtesy of the artist
  • Vinicius Cantuaria

Any serious singer of bossa nova and samba has to deal with the Antonio Carlos Jobim songbook at some point in their career. His tunes turn up over and over in Brazil and elsewhere—”Girl From Ipanema” is virtually shorthand for bossa nova. Vinicius Cantuaria started out as a rocker in the band O Terço during the 70s, but since moving to New York in the mid-90s he’s turned his attention to bossa nova; he once explained that he needed to leave his homeland to appreciate its music. His take on the form has always been a bit experimental—he suffuses the genre’s chill grooves and lush harmonies with well-deployed dissonance and an especially laconic delivery. There’s no shortage of musicians still devoted to the bossa, but over the past two decades few have made more interesting, satisfying music than Cantuaria. Over the years he’s covered Jobim songs, such as “Ela é Carioca” and “A Felicidade,” but earlier this summer he devoted a full album to the composer when he released Vinicius Canta Antonio Carlos Jobim (Sunnyside). Using lean arrangements built around his own deft guitar playing and spare percussion (he played drums in O Terço), he treats the songs with a lovely, lyric clarity that trusts in the masterful constructions of the material. He’s joined here and there by guest instrumentalists (Bill Frisell, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Chico Pinheiro) and singers (Joyce, Melody Gardot), but the focus lies squarely on his voice and how it dances across his own guitar patterns. Today’s 12 O’Clock Track is his billowy yet brisk take on “Só Danço Samba,” with weightless guitar filigree provided by Frisell. Check it out below.