Brazilian songwriter, singer, and keyboardist Marcos Valle has been an international musical presence since the early 1960s. Looking at displays of his album covers online, you can trace his march of time. There’s Valle, just a kid—bright-eyed, clean-cut, and turtle-necked. And there he is a few years later, propped up shirtless in a bed—his hair blond and feathery, like David Cassidy’s. Then, a few years later, we find him bearded, surrounded by brightly colored tropical cocktails, his V-necked t-shirt dyed a Miami Vice pink.
Now approaching 75, Valle has experimented over the decades with changing musical styles as well as with his threads and coiffures. In his recent New York show, BossaBrasil at Birdland (produced by Pat Philips-Stratta), he talked about having been part of the second generation of Brazil’s samba and bossa nova traditions, following in the steps of Antônio Carlos Jobim. As someone who matured as a musician in an era drenched with rock music, Valle—understandably—sought ways to tweak the familiar Brazilian cool-jazz sound to fit the times. However, in this show (the latest of about 15 engagements he’s had at the club), he devoted considerable time to his earliest roots. The first half of the performance I saw was devoted to songs he’s written (alone or with collaborators), but the second half was, in effect, a Jobim tribute.
Valle included his invigorating “Nova Bossa Nova,” with its tricky, quicksilver riffs. At one point he whistled softly in unison with his keyboard melody. He also gave us the hypnotic “Não Tem Nada Não,” in which his vocals sounded something like Jobim’s. During his keyboard solo on the number, he rose to a higher decibel level than most people would associate with the bossa genre. (A blazing trumpet solo by Jesse Sadoc added to the excitement.) Valle’s wife, Patrícia Alví, joined in on some numbers, including “Preciso Aprender A Ser Só” (popularized in English by Sarah Vaughan as “If You Went Away”). Alví has a pretty, almost whispery singing voice and the cool presence one associates with this music. The couple’s harmonies on the number were lovely.
Joining the ensemble for the second half were Valle’s special guests, Paula and Jaques Morelenbaum. Early in her career, vocalist Paula performed extensively with Jobim, and she has appeared at Birdland previously, but this was cellist Jaques’s debut at the club. Both artists proved to be fine assets during the Jobim portion of the show, which included lush renditions of such favorites as “Corcovado,” “Desafinado,” and “Águas de Março.” Paula’s voice is clear and strong: a resilient piece of crystal. She demonstrated a friendly rapport with the audience, providing good contrast with Alví’s hushed insouciance. Jacques’s playing, rich and full, added a warm glow to the soundscape.
For the finale, Valle returned to one of his own musical creations—his most famous one, in fact: “Samba de Verão.” This 1964 number was popularized in English as “Summer Samba” or “So Nice” and was covered by Andy Williams in 1966. New generations of listeners heard it in one of the Austin Powers movies. In this Birdland show, it marked the only time English words were sung (English lyric by Norman Gimbel).
In addition to Sadoc, musicians on hand included Roni Ben-Hur on guitar, Renato Massa on drums, and Itaiguara Brandão on bass guitar. They played with both gusto and sensitivity.
BossaBrasil at Birdland
Birdland – May 29 – June 2
About the Author
Mark Dundas Wood is an arts/entertainment journalist and dramaturg. He began writing reviews for BistroAwards.com in 2011. More recently he has contributed "Cabaret Setlist" articles about cabaret repertoire. Other reviews and articles have appeared in theaterscene.net and clydefitchreport.com, as well as in American Theatre and Back Stage. As a dramaturg, he has worked with New Professional Theatre and the New York Musical Theatre Festival. He is currently literary manager for Broad Horizons Theatre Company.