Vinicius Cantuária peppers SFJazz run with Jobim classics
July 30, 2014
Vinicius Cantuária: Brazilian singer-guitarist to play classics by Jobim over 8 solo sets at SFJazz
The graceful Brazilian guitarist and singerVinicius Cantuária, who made his name playing drums for Caetano Veloso and writing the lovely hit song “Lua e Estrela” for him, moved to New York in 1994 and became immersed in a downtown scene that found him mixing it up with musicians as varied as Bill Frisell, Laurie Anderson and Brad Mehldau, as well as leading his own contemporary Brazilian jazz bands.
For the past year or so, he’s been living most of the time “here at my house in Rio and on airplanes,” says Cantuária, who was reminded of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Samba do Avião (Airplane),” which the late, great bossa nova composer, who dreaded flying, wrote about the joy of seeing Rio’s manifold beauty from a homebound jetliner landing at Galeão airport, named Galeão/Antonio Carlos Jobim after his death in 1994.
That evocative tune may or may not be among the Jobim gems that Cantuária will feature over the course of eight solo sets inSFJazz’s 99-seat, street-side Joe Henderson Lab Thursday through Sunday. He’ll mix songs by the prolific composer of classics like “Chega de Saudade,” “A Felicidade” and “The Girl From Ipanema” with the dancing chorinhos of an earlier era and a tune or two by Veloso, Chico Buarque and other contemporary singer-songwriters, including himself.
"I’m going to try to show people how Brazilian music evolved from the ’40s through samba-canção, bossa nova and after," says Cantuária, who flies down from Seattle after two shows there with Frisell, a longtime collaborator with whom he recorded the sonically rich 2011 album "Lagrimas Mexicanas."
He’s played here before, but not at the SFJazz Center, where the smaller space should provide the ideal setting for these solo performances.
"It’s just you, your voice, your guitar and the audience. Very intimate," says Cantuária, 63, who was born in the Amazonian city of Manaus and grew up in Rio, where the eclectic mix of music on the radio gave young Brazilian musicians many sources to draw on.
"Radio in the ’60s was more democratic than now. You’d hear a Jobim and other bossa nova tunes, then a Beatles song, next some classical music, then maybe Frank Sinatra. That mix was very important," adds Cantuária, who mentions Miles Davis and Bill Evans as other prime inspirations.
With the songs of Jobim, who encouraged Cantuária to move to New York when the younger musician told him he was mulling it, “there’s always something that surprises me when I listen to them. The harmonies are so rich. I don’t change the melody, of course, but I change the harmony around the melody when I improvise, play the song in different keys, with different beats. That keeps this music alive. I might play the song one way in the first set, and in the second set play it in a different key another way. That helps makes my music fresh.”
One of the pleasures of playing solo, he says, is not being bound by a set list or roadmap.
Or soccer, which, as you know, is a big part of life in Brazil, a nation that had a humiliating defeat at home during the recent World Cup semifinal against Germany. I had to ask Cantuária about it.
"It was a shock and a big frustration. We love soccer and thought Brazil was going to win. It didn’t happen. We’re at peace with it now. Brazil will come back next time very strong."
For more information, go to www.sfjazz.org.