Updated February 22, 2018

Ottawa - São Paulo Return!
Doors Open for Music at Southminster
Southminster United Church
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 – 12 noon

Evandro Gracelli has traded the warmth and sun of São Paulo, Brazil, for the chills and slush of a February in Ottawa – for a month of playing with his many musical friends here, including two more concerts.

The guitarist and vocalist is in Ottawa until the beginning of March, strengthening old ties and building new ones. When he lived here in 2010-11, he energized the local Latin jazz scene, and added considerable flair to many local groups. He has two more shows coming up.

One of his strongest links was with vocalist Rachel Beausoleil, with whom he formed the group Sol da Capital. Beausoleil fell in love with what we call Brazilian jazz and they call “Música Popular Brasileira” (MPB), and ended up travelling to Brazil three times to learn more about it – performing there with Gracelli and other Brazilian musicians, and learning Portuguese. She recently successfully defended her PhD thesis on MPB.

They scheduled two Sol da Capital shows for Gracelli's return – one a few weeks ago at Southminster United Church which I attended, and one coming up this Wednesday. Besides Beausoleil and Gracelli, the group also includes three musicians well-known for playing Brazilian and Panamerican jazz: Jasmin Lalande on saxophones and flute, Sílvio Módolo on electric bass, and Angel Araos on drums and percussion.

For some jazz fans, Brazilian jazz begins and ends with Antonio Carlos Jobim – and while he's revered in Brazil, he's by no means the only famous MPB songwriter there. For the Southminster show, the group featured iconic composers which included Milton Nascimento, Chico Buarque, Ivan Lins, Pixinguinha – and contemporary Brazilian musicians, including Gracelli himself.

Playing to an almost-full church, the group created a warm and joyous vibe to which the audience eagerly responded. Beausoleil and Gracelli sang all the songs in their original Portuguese, whose liquid sound fit the lyrical feel of the music. They overcame the language barrier with empathetic singing – and by Beausoleil describing the background to each song for the audience.

They opened with “Tico-tico”, a 1917 novelty song made famous in North America in the 1940s by Carmen Miranda. Beausoleil's animated vocals were nicely offset by Lalande's scintillating flute lines in a fun opener that immediately connected with the crowd. They followed it by “Carinhoso” by Pixinguinha – “an important song in the [MPB] canon” – in which the gentle, sweet flute lines underlined Beausoleil's soaring and silky vocals.

I particularly enjoyed “Ouça” (meaning “Listen”). It's a samba torch song, which Beausoleil explained was about a woman exerting her power and throwing her lover out. Their rendition was beautiful and sad and indomitable, with Gracelli's nuanced guitar and Lalande's intense alto sax complementing Beausoleil's warm vocals. Similarly, on “Canção do Sal (Song of the Salt Mine)”, the bright and inflected guitar and soft saxophone worked well with the flowing vocals, the whole building up into a flood of sound.

Brazil has had a stormy political history, reflected in Chico Buarque's “Construção (Construction)”, which was inspired by protests against the previous military dictatorship. It was a serious piece, with Lalande creating a buzz on his tenor sax to add to the tension under Beausoleil's intense singing. Her agitation was expressed through fast scatting, repeating a single word over and over – and finally ending with high, soaring notes fading out. The audience responded with strong applause.

Gracelli's song “Pedra do mar (Stone of the Sea)” was a warm bossa nova with a hint of sadness. It matched smooth tenor sax with sleek vocals, and featured an accented and vivid guitar solo. “Lua Soberana (Sovereign Moon)” emphasized the dancing and happy rhythms of Brazilian music, opening with a hard-edged drumbeat from Araos, followed by an anthemic vocal duet from Gracelli and Beausoleil.

Beausoleil has performed with modern Brazilian composer Beth Amin, and received her permission to include her song “Dia de seca e de temporal (Days of Sun and Rain)” in the show. Its message is of resilience: how a rose bush might lose its petals in a storm but will grow more flowers. Opening with a rolling drum rhythm, it featured vibrating guitar lines, circling saxophone, propulsive percussion, and vivacious vocals to create a bright and upbeat feel. Its last flourish inspired an immediate standing ovation from the audience.

As an encore, the group performed the quiet samba “As Rosas Não Falam (The Roses Don't Speak)” – which Beausoleil explained meant that the roses instead simply exhale their perfume to the moon. It was a lovely piece combining sweet, fluttering flute lines with expressive guitar and thoughtful vocals – a fine ending to a concert which demonstrated the power of Brazilian popular song.

Sol da Capital will perform a concert at the All Saints Event Space, 10 Blackburn Avenue (at Laurier Avenue East) in Sandy Hill, on Wednesday, February 21, at 6 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.). Tickets are $20 and must be ordered in advance from www.artemapale.com.

CANCELLED: Evandro Gracelli will perform at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec, on Sunday, February 25, at 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and more at the door.

Evandro Gracelli and Axel Fisch will perform with Silvio Modolo and Angel Araos (with special guest Sol da Capital) at the Mercury Lounge (56 ByWard Market) on Thursday, March 1, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance, $12 at the door.

Set list:

  1. Tico-Tico no fubá [Zequinha de Abreu]
  2. Carinhoso (Affectionate) [Pixinguinha / João de Barro]
  3. Trem das Onze (Eleven O'clock Train) [Adoniran Barbosa]
  4. Ouça (Listen) [Maysa]
  5. Canção do Sal (Song of the Salt Mine) [Milton Nascimento]
  6. Construção (Construction) [Chico Buarque]
  7. Pedra do mar (Stone of the Sea) [Evandro Gracelli]
  8. Lua Soberana (Sovereign Moon) [Ivan Lins / Vitor Martins]
  9. Dia de seca e de temporal (Days of Sun and Rain) [Beth Amin / Álvaro Faleiros]
  10. (encore) As Rosas Não Falam (The Roses Don't Speak) [Cartola]

February 22: Updated to note that the February 25 show at the Black Sheep Inn was cancelled.

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