You'll have to forgive me for not remembering much about Brazilian Girls' first song at the packed 9:30 club on Saturday. I was too busy trying to figure out if singer Sabina Sciubba was naked save for the expertly placed black censor bars over her private parts (and one over her eyes). It wasn't until later in the set, and after a thorough journalistic investigation, that I determined she was wearing a flesh-colored bodysuit. Still, when the black bar covering Sciubba's chest finally fell off I nearly fainted -- along with the rest of the audience. Such is the seductive power of Brazilian Girls, none of whom are from that country and only one of whom is a woman.
Sciubba grew up in Rome, Nice and Munich, and is comfortable singing in Italian, French and German, as well as English. Throw in her performance-art bent and she's the perfect frontperson for Brazilian Girls' cosmopolitan club music, which touches on everything from samba and reggae to house and lounge. The New York band's sometimes bloodless self-titled debut received a complete transfusion in concert, with Sciubba doing her best to get hearts racing while Didi Gutman (keyboards), Jesse Murphy (bass) and Aaron Johnston (drums) injected tunes like "Die Gedanken Sind Frei (Thoughts Are Free)," "Sirenes de la Fete" and "Me Gustas Cuando Callas" with a lot more thump. Plus, it didn't hurt to see Sciubba shimmying along to the sensuous songs.
One highlight was when former jazz singer Sciubba led the Girls through a fever-pitched club version of the Cole Porter standard "Just One of Those Things." But the pinnacle occurred when the crowd climbed onstage for the great dance single "Don't Stop," with people of all sorts shaking their booties with wild abandon. "Don't touch the musicians," Sciubba said, though stealing kisses on the cheek from the sexy singer appeared to go over just fine.
-- Christopher Porter
A fair idea of the versatility and sheer genius of Harold Arlen can be had, by those who know vintage American song, just from the titles in the opening medley of the tribute to him by the In Series Saturday night at the Source Theatre. The songs, sung solo or in ensemble by a quartet, were "Blues in the Night," "I've Got the World on a String," "It's Only a Paper Moon," "That Old Black Magic" and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea." Any one of them could win its composer a secure place in the annals; to have them poured out one after another is a breathtaking display of high-level musical productivity.
And that was only the beginning. The show included (among other numbers) "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "Over the Rainbow," powerfully sung by Charles Williams; "Ac-cent-chu-ate the Positive," in which he was joined by Richard Tappen; "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home," sung by Tappen; a torchy rendition of "The Man That Got Away" by Anamer Castrello; and a despairing "Stormy Weather" by Rayanne Gonzales -- 23 songs in all, exploring the gamut of human emotions from wild euphoria to deep depression. There were a few novelties and many songs right from the heart, written in collaboration with outstanding lyricists such as Johnny Mercer, Yip Harburg and Ira Gershwin.
The singers, accompanied by piano and percussion, have all had operatic experience, and it showed in the control of their voices, the subtlety of their phrasing, and how they communicated emotions. These might have been excessive in another program, but Harold Arlen deserves no less. The program, titled "Paper Moon: Remembering Harold Arlen," will be repeated next Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
-- Joseph McLellan Larry Coryell
When guitarist Larry Coryell, bassist Victor Bailey and drummer Lenny White say they're about to play a standard, they're not offering much of a clue.
At Blues Alley on Saturday night, the jazz fusion vets delivered on that promise with a colorfully rearranged and playful update of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog." Of course, depending on one's age and musical tastes, other songs on the set list also qualified as standards, including Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," George Gershwin's "Love Is Here to Stay" and Luis Bonfa's "Manha de Carnaval."
Each member of the trio made his fusion mark in a pioneering ensemble -- Coryell with the Eleventh House, Bailey with Weather Report, White with Return to Forever. Now recording and touring together, they've developed a leaderless and often conversational sound. Coryell seemed to be channeling his younger self when playing an electric hard-body guitar, emphasizing blues-rock riffs and jabbing funk chords. He didn't play his jazz arch-top guitar, but he did play plenty of jazz, dashing off fluid chromatic lines and displaying customary harmonic finesse. On the Gershwin and Bonfa pieces that featured him playing acoustic guitar, he used finger-picked rhythms, shimmering harmonics and a pair of enduring melodies to create a lovely interlude.
As expected, Bailey and White made for a muscular pairing when the tempos turned swift, but for the most part their playing was distinguished by more wit than power. "Low Blow," Bailey's spirited and slippery funk tune, and "Dedication," White's contemporary romantic ballad, also contributed to the sharply contrasting moods.
-- Mike Joyce
Just because the enormous popularity of Daddy Yankee's single "Gasolina," with its blistering drum-machine combustion, is diminishing doesn't mean that the Puerto Rican reggaeton superstar gets a break from his signature song. Fans not only expect to hear the crossover track that infiltrated MTV and prompted cries of "Dame mas gasolina!" from non-Spanish speakers, but want it to sound as fresh and as lively as it did many months ago. On Friday night, when Yankee's "Who's Your Daddy?" tour pulled into the Patriot Center, the problem of executing the anthemic "Gasolina" in a new way was handled by piling on the concert production effects: Smoke! Pyro! Dancers! More smoke! The only thing the finale lacked was a giant burst of confetti, but only because the equipment used to release it failed and didn't shower the arena with sparkly bits until the crowd was walking to the parking lot.
But Daddy Yankee, who performed along with Mafu Crew, Akwid, and Zion & Lenox, didn't necessarily need such extras to punch up his performance. Even during the most ubiquitous of hits, his breakneck delivery added urgency and excitement to every well-known piece of music he presented.
Yankee dropped his verse from "Oye Mi Canto" (Nuyorican rapper N.O.R.E.'s 2004 foray into the form), as well as a piece of his dancehall duet with Rupee, "Tempted to Touch," but the show was heavy on selections from "Barrio Fino," the platinum-selling disc that has made Daddy Yankee into an international phenomenon. And even though songs such as "Lo Que Paso, Paso," "Tu Principe" (which features Zion & Lenox) and "No Me Dejes Solo" have been played to death, the crowd yelled "Da-Dee! Da-Dee!" as enthusiastically as if they were hearing the material for the first time.
-- Sarah Godfrey
Daddy Yankee couldn't get away without performing "Gasolina."