(Ronnie Scott’s. 12th January 2015. First night of two. Review by Peter Jones)
There’s really nothing like hearing Brazilian music played by real-life Brazilians. A few weeks back the Ronnie Scott’s audience was treated to a wonderful, fiery performance by virtuoso pianist and singer Tania Maria. Last night it was the turn of virtuoso guitarist and singer Joyce Moreno (formerly known as Joyce) – exactly the same age as Tania Maria, but from the opposite end of Brazil, and with a somewhat lighter style.
Moreno is in Europe to promote her new album Raiz, or ‘Roots’, featuring all the key influences on her music since she began her recording career back in 1964. Hence there were tunes by Jobim (Desafinado), Baden Powell (Canto De Yansan), Menescal (O Barquinho) and Caymmi (Vestido de Bolero and Requebre Que Eu Dou Um Doce), as well as Joyce herself (Penalty). The touring band is the same one as on the album, just released on the London-based Far Out Recordings label: Helio Alves on piano, Rodolfo Stroeter on electric bass and Joyce’s husband and producer Tutty Moreno on drums.
It was an evening of quite stunning beauty – non-stop explosions of brilliant tropical colour and bewilderingly complex rhythms. Musicians as sophisticated as these can take an oft-heard standard like Desafinado and turn it into a creation full of light and shade, with infinite variations on what we Brits think of as simple bossanova. The drumming of Tutty Moreno in particular should be compulsory study for anyone wishing to perform these songs: throughout I was reminded of the famous Miles Davis maxim ‘Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.’ Stroeter’s bass was sinuous and insistent, full of melody; Alves’s piano was mostly sweet and fluid, but occasionally cut loose in breakneck solos, particularly on Penalty.
‘I love my job,’ said Joyce as she returned for her encore. She does, and the audience loved her for it.