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Brazilian Jazz Rebel
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About Vinicius Cantuaria
As singer, songwriter, guitarist and percussionist, Vinicius Cantuária’s career connects several zones of Brazilian music. And though his music is known for its decidedly twenty-first century feel, Cantuária’s band might best be described as ‘post-electronica acoustic.’ Their repertoire typically includes songs by Jobim and Gilberto Gil, as well as Cantuária’s own fund of songs.
Cantuária got his start as the drummer in Caetano Veloso’s late 1970s band, and it was the Cantuária-penned song “Lua e Estrela” (Moon and Star) that transformed Veloso from a revered musical visionary into a genuine Brazilian pop icon. Cantuária has resided in Brooklyn since 1994, and his singular synthesis of New York City and Rio de Janeiro has made him a revered figure in the NYC avant-garde scene. With a body of work that fuses the subversive pop of Tom Waits with the understated cool of Joao Gilberto, Cantuária has released 16 records under his own name, and has collaborated with the vanguard of new pop, including David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, Bill Frisell, Brad Mehldau, Jenny Scheinman, Arto Lindsay and others.
Though artists such as Anderson, Frisell and Lindsay have a common touch, there is always an awkwardness to their music: they don’t worry about ugly sounds. They are prepared to confront their sophisticated audiences as well as delight them. Cantuária, by contrast, rarely produces anything that is not beautiful. He might express enthusiastic interest in DJ Spooky and the scratchy rhythms of laptop blip-hop, trade vocals with David Byrne or duet with Marc Ribot, but the end-result is always tuneful, light, fleet and musical. Compare his version of ‘O Nome Dela’ (co-written with Arto Lindsay) with the version on Lindsay’s own album Prize. The song has a fabulous tune, a great hook and simple affecting words. Each version has its merits, and demonstrates a different aspect of Cantuária’s chord playing, but it’s the Brazilian’s earlier version (on Sol Na Cara) that haunts the mind and grips the heart.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“…a high water mark of Brazilian culture.” -Guardian
“calmly transfixing… introspective but self-assured” – New York Times
“Master of the sublimely sensual” – BBC
“Cantuária sings with a supple, understated charisma…” – Jazz Times