Luísa Maita, hailed by NPR as “The New Voice of Brazil,” kicked off her 2012 North American summer tour on Thursday, July 19 at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis. This summer may be one of the hottest on record, but Maita and her band kicked it up to sultry that night. Perhaps that explains an overheard conversation that included this inspired quote: “I play this music for those who come to my bed.” Ahh, heat!
Maita sang with a three-piece band featuring guitarist/composer Rodrigo De Campos, bassist (and stage personality plus!), Fernando Nunes and drummer Erico Theobaldo. Throughout the performance you know you’re listening to well-loved Brazilian rhythm standards established by João Gilberto, Milton Nascimento, Bebel Gilberto and others, but you’re also treated to contemporary influences including 80s and 90s funk and pop music and a world beat reminiscent Middle Eastern to African music. (Even Minnesota’s Prince is listed as an influence from Maita’s childhood.)
At 30 years old, Maita is both mature enough to have a solid on-stage persona and young enough to come across as vulnerable and shy. She wore a simple, but smashingly sexy lil’black dress yet was au-natural with hair and make-up. There were some, perhaps-too-dramatic, extended breathy song endings that felt awkward (as if she wasn’t sure when or how to end the note), especially on a haunting, English language song “Under My Skin.” But her voice has the ability to nail the intensity needed for a passionate samba and bring it down for a soft bossa nova. A perfect example of this was the third song in the first set that started out simple and pure, and then slapped you across the ears like Sophia Loren slaps (in jest, of course) Marcello Mastroianni in the classic “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” Ever so sassy sounding, the song seemed to launch her into a stronger sense of composure on stage.
At one point in the second set, we were treated to a string of five songs composed by guitarist De Campos which richly illustrated his ability to layer Maita’s smooth, breathy voice with advanced guitar rhythms and interesting, intense bass and percussion. The set was a charming layering of sound that went out on a limb with graphic rhythms and strong tone changes. Jazz inspired to be sure.
My notes include “sounds like The Police’s intro here.” “Ah! Ricky Lee Jones,” “I hear Chet Baker,” “cool ska here … wait, Sinead O’Connor.” Since I don’t know Portuguese, I didn’t get the names of the songs that match these notes, but they illustrate the overall experience Maita provides: The sound is unmistakably Brazilian while encompassing jazz + reggae + ska and the sexy side of funk. While the Minnesotans in the audience clapped loudly, I think it was the exclaiming Brazilians in the audience who wooed her back onstage with for an encore of “Lero-Lero,” the title song of her first album. Her second album will most likely change NPR’s label of “The New Voice of Brazil” to “A Brazilian Voice for the World.”
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