The Vinicius Cantuária Quintet
In New York

By Martin Longley

Brazilian singer-guitarist Vinicius Cantuária moved from Rio De Janeiro to New York in 1995, and arguably started to become more popular, at least on an international level. Working with fellow axemen Arto Lindsay and Bill Frisell encouraged a movement beyond hushed bossa nova tradition, increasing the jazz content of his songs and smudging them with electronic colourations. It's not that Cantuária wasn't already evolving the established 1950s and '60s template, but this process just became more openly noticeable. He's certainly not about to dismantle the core elements, or feed in large globs of industrial noise. This is a fundamentally quiet music, and that quality must stay in place, or it would become something else.

On the last of four nights at Iridium, New York's most open-minded of jazz clubs, Cantuária's technique for establishing volume variety is to sing his verses, then open a tune up to the soloing efforts of his four cohorts, growing a rubbery funk pulse or setting up a percussive clatter. Indeed, electric bassist Paul Socolow is always the loudest player in the band, and Cantuária the quietest. Alto saxophonist David Binney is also equipped with a laptop and sample-triggering mini-keyboard, but his electro-worms are subtle creatures,  only occasionally poking their snouts above the surface.

Cantuária himself sings and strums in the gentlest possible way. Sometimes, he half takes a guitar solo, which is just about audible. This sonic modesty is appropriate to the songs, and the set benefits from the unlikely co-existence of near-empty murmurings with jazz-funky hooks. Certainly no outgoing performer, the seated Cantuária hardly moves or speaks throughout, but he still commands rapt attention regardless. It's a kind of introspective charisma that's his alone.

 Vinicius Cantuária's new album, Cymbals, will be released any time now on Naive Records.
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