By Don Heckman
Brazilian singer Katia Moraes has been using a complimentary quotation of mine in her publicity material for a while now. So when I saw that she was performing at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. on Thursday night, I thought it might be a good time to check in with her again, to see if I’d still have the same favorable reaction to one of her performances.
Vibrato Grill Jazz..etc. can be a challenging venue for most musicians and singers, especially when the bar is packed with busily socializing drinkers. Some performers simply ignore the conversational buzz and do their own thing, concentrating on the usually more receptive audience members seated at the semi-circular bank of tables surrounding the stage. Others competitively raise their own levels of volume and intensity. While others go under, rather than over, hoping to attract rather than overcome.
Moraes is more familiar with venues that have both the space and the receptivity to allow full expression of her dynamic qualities. But, not surprisingly, she had plenty of the right firepower to convincingly send out her message from Vibrato’s intimate stage. Working with her Sambaguru band – Bill Brendle on piano, Hussain Jiffry on bass and Tony Shogren on drums – she was as vivacious and communicative as ever. And, early in her set, she chose to emphasize those qualities, accompanied by enticing dance movements, her performance energies at their peak level.
Moraes’ most intriguing quality, for anyone with an interest in Brazilian music reaching beyond bossa nova, is her convincing renderings of a wide panoply of Brazilian songs, sounds and rhythms. And, in her quest to reach all her listeners, she dug into the richest, most propulsive rhythms in her songbook – especially from Bahia.
But it wasn’t until later in her set, when crowd level had reduced somewhat, that she broadened her selections, offering more laid back material – even a few bossa novas (including “The Girl From Ipanema”)- thoroughly displaying the broadly interpretive qualities of a vocal art enhanced by dance-like presentations.
No matter what she sang, however, whether in English or Portuguese, the words came vividly to life, illuminated completely by the intense feelings of Moraes’ soaring vocals and the impassioned rhythms of Brendle, Jiffry and Shogren.
Oh, and about my quote that Katia’s been using?. Here it is: ”There’s no one quite like this Brazilian bundle of musical dynamite. Bringing irresistible vitality to every song she sings…”
And it still stands.
Photo by, and courtesy of, David Schwartz.