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Vinicius draws on musical resources in Cambridge concert

Susan Saccoccia
Susan Saccoccia
Vinicius draws on musical resources in Cambridge concert
Vinicius Cantuária Photo: courtesy Vinicius Cantuária

When great Brazilian vocalist, songwriter and guitarist Vinicius Cantuária performs, he draws from veins of modern Brazilian music that in no small way he helped to shape. These include Tropicália, an inventive melding of bossa nova, samba and African roots music of the 1960s, as well as the innovations of Música Popular Brasileira that spread to jazz in both Brazil and the United States.

All these musical resources were evident during a rare local appearance by the musician, usually referred to simply by his first name, Vinicius, who delivered a superb 90-minute set Friday night at the Regattabar in Cambridge.

After a rich career in Rio, Vinicius moved to New York in the mid-1990s, where he forged a new set of pioneering collaborations with downtown music and jazz artists.

The musical flow

Friday night, Vinicius, 67, spoke only to introduce his ensemble — pianist Vitor Gonçalves, drummer Adriano Santos and bassist Paul Socolow — and to thank the audience. Vinicius conducted his set with the ease of a master at play, drawing on Brazilian musical traditions in all their variety and freedom through his voice and guitar to carry on an intimate conversation with his audience and accompanists.

As Vinicius moved through his set, he constantly varied the pace, mood and style, alternating between gentle bossa nova songs and some pieces, including his own compositions, with elements of neo-rock and extended jazz passages. He began each with an introductory passage that let the audience know what was coming, and closed the song with a similar-sounding finale. But in between, each was a musical journey, with improvisational give-and-take between Vinicius and his accompanists, particularly Gonçalves.

Jazz influences

About half of the 13 selections were infectious samba-inflected songs from his 2015 album “Vinicius Canta Antônio Carlos Jobim,” his tribute to Jobim, the great bossa nova and Brazilian jazz musician.

Using his low, expressive voice to precisely articulate each song’s Portuguese lyrics, Vinicius brought out the musicality of his language even to those who do not know it. He talked with his hands — not only as his long fingers strummed and picked the strings of his guitar but also occasionally extending one hand to point or spread open, as if to persuade or engage his listener and emphasize the story he was telling in the lyrics.

Bringing decades of mastery to his amplified guitar, Vinicius intertwined his vocals with intricate, infectious rhythmic and melodic patterns, now and then sauntering into passages of free jazz or injecting a raw reverb accent or line of funk before gliding back into a samba-inflected cadence. Wherever he went, Vinicius remained in intimate dialogue with Gonçalves, a marvelous pianist who answered every spare, staccato or baroque turn with improvisations of his own.

As their second and final encore, Vinicius and his ensemble performed a tender rendition of the bossa nova anthem, “Garota de Ipanema” (“The Girl from Ipanema”), written in 1962 by Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. Vinicius lingered over its closing phrase, repeating its words, “por causa do amor” (“because of love”).

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