Sergio Brandão, Lyambiko
January 1, 1970A slow week for Globe jazz-writing, a busy week for teaching journalism as the semester draws to a close. The local jazz scene will be quiet the next few weeks as well, as both the Regattabar and Scullers are turned over to hosting private parties for nearly all of December.
In any case, the two regular pieces this week were a profile of guitarist-composer Sergio Brandão for the column and vocalist Lyambiko as the Calendar pick. My predecessor wrote a couple of pieces on Lyambiko that made her sound like the second coming of Billie Holiday. I can't say I agree with that. On record she's a good, promising singer — but there are at least a couple of dozen young singers on par with her or better. She may be better than that in concert, but I'll have to find out for myself another time — I'm stuck home working through the weekend and will have to miss tonight's show.
I missed Brandão's last night as well, sad to say. His will be accompanied by a few hundred high-quality photos he took during a five-week trip to Rio de Janeiro last summer. I got a glimpse of those in his apartment when I talked to him, and he then grabbed his guitar and played me samples of three of the tunes he'd be doing ... then led me to his piano and played a lengthy chunk of another one. It's not very often an interview leads to an impromptu private concert.
Anyway, it's back to the grind for me. Hope you're having a more relaxing weekend that I am.
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Sights and sounds from a Brazilian city
In Sergio Brandão's 'Postcards From Rio,' the music is part of a bigger picture
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | December 2, 2005
Tonight's performances by Brazilian guitarist-composer Sergio Brandão and his septet Manga Rosa at the Real Deal Jazz Club & Café will be a multimedia presentation. "Postcards From Rio" will pair compositions Brandão has been gathering for an upcoming recording session with 450 color slides he took during a five-week visit to his hometown this summer.
"I wanted to do a portrait of my city," explains Brandão, 49, seated in his apartment in Jamaica Plain. "I wanted to be a bit journalistic, but essentially I wanted to express how that environment is so enchanting that it affects people's moods."
Beside him rests an Apple laptop, on which images from Brandão's slide show are cycling, much as they'll do on the screen in Cambridge tonight. Brandão selected the shots from the 2,500 he took while on the trip, which involved traveling as much as 25 miles a day by bicycle with his digital camera.
Running through all of Brandão's shots is a sense of his city's warmth and joie de vivre. He honed his photographic chops the same place he honed his musical skills: Boston. Brandão moved here in 1979 and spent several years studying at New England Conservatory, accumulating four degrees — a bachelor's and a master's degree apiece in composition and jazz studies. He also studied photography for a year at the Museum of Fine Arts.
The photography had largely been set aside, however, until Brandão began working as a teacher's aide at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Framingham last January. Something like 60 percent of its pupils are Brazilian, according to Brandão, who was there primarily to help kindergarteners and first-graders learn to read and write Portuguese. As part of a game for the kindergarten, he took some pictures, which led him to pick up photography again.
He wound up upgrading to the digital camera he'd later take with him to Brazil, where a trip to help his elderly parents evolved into a photographic quest. People would stop him and ask what he was doing, and he would tell them he didn't know — yet.
Only one of the new pieces to be unveiled tonight has a direct link to the Brazil trip. He named the composition "Isabella" for a film student he photographed practicing yoga on the beach one morning. As his laptop slide show winds down, Brandão grabs his guitar and strums a generous sample of it, his voice soaring softly above the chords in wordless vocal lines.
It's a delicate tune and, like Brandão's other new work, it is in the same vein as Manga Rosa's previous CD, "Brazilian Landscapes": a mix of jazz improvisation, classical-sounding harmonies, and a wide assortment of Brazilian folk music, which, as Brandão defines it, includes the "urban folk" the world knows as samba.
"The trademark of my group has been two flutes," says Brandão, whose brother Fernando has played one of them since following Sergio to Boston around 1990. "And I think the music is very visual."
Sergio Brandão and Manga Rosa will perform "Postcards From Rio" at 7 and 9:30 tonight at the Real Deal Jazz Club & Café. Tickets $16. Call 617-876-7777 or visit www.concertix.com.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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The Real Deal Jazz Club & Café, Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second St., Cambridge. 617-876-7777. 7 and 9:30 p.m. $18.
If you've never heard of the 30-year-old jazz singer Lyambiko and her identically named quartet, consider yourself forgiven. She's a big deal in her native Germany, where her recent release for Sony Classical went to No. 5 on jazz charts. But the CD, also named "Lyambiko," still awaits release in the United States, where Lyambiko has so far gone largely unnoticed. There has been nary a mention of her in the New York Times, though she has performed in Manhattan a time or two, and she has registered barely a blip on the Down Beat and JazzTimes radar screens. In Boston, however, she seems to be building a cult following, prodded along in great part by her pianist, Marque Lowenthal — who's originally from Sharon — and by a self-confessed "head over heels" Globe critic (not myself) having gushed that Lyambiko "conveys the naked drama of Billie Holiday, the breathy sexiness of Julie London, and the mustard of Nina Simone." That assessment is overblown, judging by Lyambiko's three solid but by no means overwhelming CDs to date. Sometimes, though, CDs fail to fully convey an artist's onstage magic. The best way to tell if that's the case here is to see for yourself Saturday.
Sat 12-3 Rebecca Parris Local vocal fave Parris ushers in the Christmas season in Marblehead with guest singer-pianist Paul Broadnax on Saturday night, then does likewise at the Real Deal on Sunday with matinee sets at 2:30 & 5 p.m. Unitarian-Universalist Church, 28 Mugford St., Marblehead. 781-781-631-6366. 8 p.m. $23.50 advance, $25.50 at door, $30 preferred seating (includes pre-concert wine reception).