I'm always amazed at how familial the music scene is here. Especially at world music shows, it often seems like one big family reunion - this was the case at the Boban Markovic concert last summer, and even more so last night at Metropolis. It appeared that the entire lusophone community of Montreal (along with some like-minded pretenders like me) was out in force. A four-hour tribute to bossa, samba, MPB, samba-rock and samba-reggae ensued in the company of locals (ringleader Monica Freire, keyboardist John Sadowy, the inimitable Vovô, and co-musical directors bassist Dan Gigon and saxophonist Jean-Pierre Zanella) and guests from Brazil and Paris, the night featured vocalists Freire, Rodrigo Maranhão, Mart'nália, Celso Fonseca and Margareth Menezes. Starting with the batucada of Estacão da Luz in the middle of the club, the first half featured each singer performing two or three songs, the last of which was generally a cover (Maranhão doing Caetano Veloso's "Você não entende nada," Mart'nália with her re-harmonized and re-grooved version of "Don't Worry, Be Happy," and Fonseca doing Marcos Valle's "Summer Samba"). Someone performed "Chiclete com banana" somewhere in the first set, I don't remember who!
What was truly inspiring, and a welcome reminder, were the versions of ubiquitous bossas that have made their way into the jazz canon - "Summer Samba," "Samba de uma nota só," "Águas de Março," "Água de beber." As a jazz musician, I've heard (and played) some terribly watered-down versions that bear no resemblance to the way the tunes are supposed to be done. Normally I can't stand "Águas de Março" but Freire and Fonseca did it well - and it's such a wordy tune that two native Brazilans needed a cheat sheet on a music stand!
The second set, after a batucada and capoeira interlude, started with Maranhão's version of "Agua de beber," and soon the spirit shifted from tribute concert to all-out festa. Freire got it going with Gilberto Gil's "Aquele abraço." Margareth Menezes, looking like a Bahian Tina Turner, led a sing-along of Jorge Ben's "País tropical" and Chico Cesar's "Mama Africa." The finale featured all five singing Jorge Ben's "Ive Brussel." The night was filmed by Spectra-Amerimage for broadcast - there were more than a few times where I nearly got beaned by a camera arm, and the stage setup had a very 1960s Ed Sullivan feel to it.