Review: Vinicius Cantuaria, Bill Frisell and Marivaldo dos Santos

Vinicius Cantuaria, Bill Frisell and Marivaldo dos Santos
(Ronnie Scott’s, January 12th 2011, second night of two)

This must go on record as one of the quietest gigs ever at Ronnie Scott’s. To make the delicate interaction of Vinicius Cantuaria, Bill Frisell and Marivaldo dos Santos audible for the punters, the staff serving at tables had to produce impossible pianississimos with the plates and the forks.

New York-based Brazilian Cantuaria plays guitar, and sings in Portuguese and Spanish. His singing voice is light, ethereal, seductive, but he kicks the speech-rhythms of both languages deliciously into life. And his guitar playing is noteworthy for its sheer economy of expression and allusiveness. Cantuaria’s way is to sketch the merest suggestion of a vestige or shadow of an accompanying figure, and then leave it hanging in the air. A strummed chord perhaps, or two or three notes in sequence giving the vaguest a hint of melody. And all of the rest is left to Bill Frisell.

With Cantuaria’s understated, quiet gestures as base, Frisell has a whole range of choices. He keeps his gaze locked in on Cantuaria, sometimes responding in kind, alluding, hinting, leaving gaps. Or he starts to fill the space around Cantuaria, launching into anthemic bass lines, complex inner voicings, rising to complete orchestral Frisellishness, and giving it the full Rambler prog folk works, to surround his colleague’s simple utterances with richness and colour.

Percussionist Marivaldo dos Santos also has a strong voice, always responding, always adding something interesting. He doesn’t appear on the record “Lágrimas Mexicanas” (Naive) and the record is weaker for that. A highlight of the evening was Lágrimas de Amor, which allowed Dos Santos to let rip joyfully on congas, but also fitted in a wonderful exploration of the boundaries of silence. The recorded version – which I have admittedly only had a brief listen to – seems to pump out that tune at a disappointingly consistent level.

This was a remarkable show, it had the variety and humanity never to outstay its welcome.

Supporting were pianist Tim Lapthorn with the same trio which recorded the CD Seventh Sense (Basho) in 2007 – Arnie Somogyi and Stephen Keogh. This was a gentle unforced set. Lapthorn’s quiet postlude to “Someone to Watch Over Me” was eloquent and delicate. And in the final number “I should Care,” my ears were caught up in the sheer unselfishness and delicacy of Keogh’s drumming, and the balanced and eloquent tone of Somogyi’s bass playing.

LondonJazz was celebrating its first two years of existence last night. Quietly.


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