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by: Susan Hasho


It doesn’t get better than this: John Pizzarelli and Daniel Jobim, the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, bossa nova, a little “Great American Songbook,” and pure joy. Add the brilliant musicians Martin Pizzarelli on bass, Duduka DaFonseca on drums and Helio Alves on piano (who are in sync with Pizzarelli and Jobim on an almost cellular level) and there is a high level of Brazilian music, hard to find. Pizzarelli takes the role of master of ceremonies and his gift of storytelling was at full tilt, charming and funny. He moves the evening along delightfully. Jobim (the grandson of Antonio Carlos Jobim) shares anecdotes, musical information about the creation of the songs and plays the sidekick with a summer straw hat and a brilliant soft smile. They are perfect together.

The choice of music is perfectly tuned to an audience of all persuasions—big fans, Americans perhaps not so familiar with the music, or experts in the Brazilian art form that is bossa nova.

They opened with S Wonderful (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin) both on stools side by side bantering with each other and the band. It is mentioned that everybody sings in Brazil—they sing along in key, or off key which would imply that the audience, Tuesday night, was offered the chance should they choose at any point to join in. Two songs by Joao Gilberto Tin Tin for Tin Tin and Besame Mucho were paired together. Two Kites (Antonio Carlos Jobim) was suprising in its innocence and sexual innuendo and sung with sly joy by Pizzarelli. He can scat Brazilian till it sounds like he’s got two voices. How Insensitive, Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Antonio Carlos Jobim) paired together was almost unbearably sweet and sad. It is hard to tell Jobim and Pizzarelli apart when they sing together, the understanding of the music is so in sync and alive there is a spell they cast on the room. Antonio’s Song written by Michael Franks, who was in awe of Jobim is, oddly enough, a good example of how extraordinary this music is: (“Antonio lives life’s frevo, Antonio prays for truth Antonio says our friendship is a hundred proof… But sing the Song Forgotten for so long And let the Music flow Like Light into the Rainbow We know the Dance, we have, We still have the chance To break these chains and flow Like Light into the Rainbow …We still have a chance we know the dance”). It turns out that it becomes clear when this music is performed by experts like Pizzarelli and Daniel Jobim that Brazilian music is simple and deep and true in ways we don’t know if we don’t speak the language; in this way this show translates the hidden and not so hidden profundity of the lilt and the swing.

The Girl from Ipanema, sung by Jobim and Pizzarelli in both languages proved itself to be the catchy tune deserving of its classic place in the canon. The genius of pairing I Remember Sky (Sondheim) and Waters of March (Antonio Carlos Jobim) —(“a stick, a stone, It’s the end of the road, It’s the rest of a stump, It’s a little alone…And the riverbank talks Of the waters of March, It’s the promise of life It’s the joy in your heart…) is an example of Pizzarelli’s great gift for choosing brilliantly. Once again, the two colleagues sang in sync and embodied the childlike heart and genius of both songs. The audience cheered the evening with great “Bravos;” and the Carlyle proved itself, once again, to be a great venue for close viewing of many kinds of brilliant artists, for which we should thank them heartily—by going.

Strictly Bossa Nova II is a treasure, magical and surprising and fun.

 * Photos: Mireya Acierto