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Sunday, May 08, 2005

To Guinga last night, the concluding event of this year's Albright-Knox Microsoft Art of Jazz series, and the final stop on his first North American tour. We really didn't know what to expect with this performance, but a leap of faith with Bruce Eaton is an easy step to take. We knew that Guinga was Brazilian, and Eaton may have mentioned that he has a day job as a dentist. I assumed guitar, and went in figuring that, except for the dentist part we knew enough to be confident of hearing something at least pleasant, even if it turned out to be nothing more.

As it happened, it turned out to be a great deal more, informed by Brazilian musical traditions, but informed as well by American popular standards from the 30's and 40's, and mostly sounding like straight-on be-bop. Two guitars, supplemented by clarinet (which gave things a Gershwin feel,) and a trumpeter/flugelhorn who blasted licks that reminded me of Dizzy Gillespie. Mostly it was very fast, witty unison playing, broken up with an occasional solo by one of the horns while the guitars vamped behind. The playing was incredible-- the kind of thing that just makes you laugh when you realize what they have done, the way a Charley Parker solo works-- and you could see that they knew it too. They were on, and they were amazing. Guinga has big hands, and worked up and down the fretboard mostly picking out rhythm licks behind the lead playing of Lula Galvão on a hollow-bodied electric guitar. It was great to watch-- they were in perfect synch together, running down the changes at breakneck speed, usually with a look of concentration, occasionally glancing over to the other, just to make sure they were going to the same place, then finishing with a flourish, and breaking into smiles.

The CD I picked up will take some listening-- it is very orchestral, and not what we had last night. I get the feeling that Guinga has decided that the time is right to turn towards music. He is established in Brazil, but his dental practice is what pays the bills. He doesn't speak much English, but he mentioned that his two daughters are now 22 and 24-- a good time in his life to start seeking out a larger audience.

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