(Ronnie Scott’s, March 24th 2011, Review by Sofia Wilde)
Rio-born Joyce Moreno is one of Brazil’s most revered singer-songwriters. In a career spanning forty years, she has recorded over twenty solo albums and been nominated for three Latin Grammy awards.
“To play bossa nova you have to be able to play well softly as much as loudly”, the ‘father of bossa nova’ – Joao Gilberto – once said. This is precisely what Joyce and her band do so well. The music breathes; it ebbs and flows and teases the listener with rollercoaster rises and falls in tempo and dynamics.
From the very first number ‘A Banda Maluca’ (The Crazy Band), the band were out to prove just how crazy they could get. Helio Alves on piano, Rodolpho Stoeter on bass and husband and collaborator, Tutty Moreno on drums all performed with absolute mastery. It was impossible not to want to move. Ronnie’s has a great atmosphere but I can only imagine the enthusiasm in a venue where there’s room to dance. The rhythm and energy the band exude seems to come so naturally one would like to believe that they were simply ‘born that way.’ During one of Helio’s absurdly brilliant solos, a Brazilian musician sat next to me was prompted to say, “I think I’ll give up”.
Joyce’s voice has a breathtaking tone and wonderfully percussive inflections, but she’s also an extremely accomplished guitarist, composer and interpreter. Playing her trademark back-to-front pipe cleaner guitar, she went on to perform several of her own compositions, the highlight for me being ‘Caymmi Vista Tom’, a song that imagines Tom Jobim and Dori Caymmi meeting in heaven. Then there were compositions by Brazilian heavyweights, Johnny Alf, Vinicius de Moraes, Baden Powell and of course Tom Jobim. Joyce performing ‘Águas de Março’ on her own was another highlight.
Being half-Portuguese, I appreciate the lyrical content of the songs, and love philosophical musings such as: “Medo de amar, nao faz feliz a ninguem” – “Afraid of loving, doesn’t make anybody happy” and “Preciso aprender os mistérios do mundo prá te ensinar” – “I need to learn the mysteries of the world so I can teach you”. Inspiring lyrics like this feed the soul, and lift the heart. In English there was ‘Slow Music’ – written by Joyce and Robin Goldsby – with a gem of a line: “time doesn’t fly, it flows”. It’s a song inspired by ‘Slow Food’ a movement promoting good, clean and fair food. Joyce recommends we savour those same things in music instead of swallowing ‘junk music’.
This was her annual one-date gig in Great Britain – she’s also appearing in Belfast on this trip. She’s in her early sixties, so let’s hope she keeps on touring, and that the UK stays on her itinerary. What a treat.