This Brazilian bossa nova/electronic fusion band takes upon their shoulders the responsibility of promoting their cultural heritage by bringing it head on to the 21st century. Presenting a well-rounded package, Ao Vivo includes their live experience in CD and DVD form coupled by a documentary showcasing the genre’s origins through the words of those who created it.
Ao Vivo presents a group well into their career, with four albums under their belt and a razor sharp sound that is as much a product of their own creation as it is dependant on the past. The three permanent members, Alex Moreira in keyboards and guitars, DJ Marcelinho Da Lua on turntables and Marcio Menescal on bass seem confident enough in their skills to become ringleaders to a myriad of band members and guest musicians which include big names in bossa nova such as Carlos Lyra and Roberto Menescal, Marcio’s father. In fact, it was their collaboration with R. Menescal that earned the group a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Brazilian Contemporary Pop Album in 2002 for their second album Brasilidade.
The song selection featured in the CD and DVD proves to be an appropriate medium for the band to stretch their muscles and show that they can tackle the most laid back of tunes such as Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Águas de Março’ in a silky performance by singer Cris Delanno to the more upbeat ‘Minha Menina’, originally made famous by Os Mutantes. The tracks are cherry picked from the best of bossa nova’s catalogue, including such clichés as ‘Água de Beber’ and ‘Garota de Ipanema’, which were rather bland and could’ve been dispensed with. The only criticism that I could find was that Bossacucanova didn’t adventure to try more songs that weren’t already on their studio albums.
However, the DVD is what makes this collection a must buy. Offering the video of the live performance heard on the CD and a documentary showing the history of bossa nova as well as its significance in Brazilian music through an acoustic session in a flat in Rio de Janeiro, the DVD helps put a human face to the chilled groove of the music. Through interviews of bossa nova musicians such as Marcos Valle and João Donato, we learn that this marriage of samba and jazz came from guitar-playing beach bums who, as the genre exploded worldwide, suddenly found themselves being greeted in US airports by musical greats such as Cannonball Adderly, Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. At the same time, we are shown the new generation who were born after the bossa nova craze that try to understand what the music meant for their parents and recite Vinicius de Moraes’ lyrics as if it were poetry. The acoustic sessions, modelled after Nara Leão’s in the 1960s, help show the improvisational nature of the music in the form of new talent such as Thalma de Freitas, Fernanda Takei and Pedro Luis.
It is especially Takei’s version of ‘O Barquinho’ that sold this whole package to me, as it married all the elements that I believe Ao Vivo set out to do: it starred a new voice, backed by Bossacucanova’s rhythms and complemented by Roberto Menescal as the old master passing the torch to this new generation. Even though it could have proven to take more risks in song choice, this audiovisual celebration of a truly Brazilian music reminds us that there is still life in the genre. Ao Vivo‘s desire to both delight and inform is what elevates this release into something more than a live album and transforms it into equal parts history lesson, love letter and a beginner’s guide to bossa nova.
1. Eu Quero um Samba
2. Maria Moita (with Carlos Lyra)
3. Samba da Minha Terra
4. Essa Moça Tá Diferente (with Wilson Simoninha)
5. Samba de Verão — Bossacucanova
6. Águas de Março — Bossacucanova
7. Bom Dia Rio (Posto 6) (with Jaques Morelenbaum)
8. Garota de Ipanema (with Roberto Menescal, Ed Motta)
9. Telefone (with Leo Gandelman, Roberto Menescal)
10. Balanço Zona Sul (with Wilson Simoninha)
11. Minha Menina
12. Influência do Jazz (with Leo Gandelman, Pedro Luis, Carlos Lyra) [Acoustic Sessions]
13. O Barquinho (with Roberto Menescal, Fernanda Takai) [Acoustic Sessions]
14. Nasci Para Bailar (with João Donato, Leo Gandelman) [Acoustic Sessions]
1. Na Base Da Bossa (documentary/acoustic sessions)
2. Ao Vivo no Canecão