Like a lot of people, when I think of Brazil, I think music, music, and more music. Names roll off the tongue…Milton Nascimento. Gilberto Gil. Tom Zé. Caetano Veloso. Bebel Gilberto. Joáo Bosco, Seu Jorge…just some of the great Brazilian singer/songwriters belonging to a rich cultural pantheon. And what do they have in common? They’ve all played the Jazz Festival over the years.
Here’s some good news. Seu Jorge is returning to the Festival to perform acoustic guitar versions of David Bowie classics in Portuguese. And although he’s released several solo albums of original material, it’s the Bowie stuff filtered through an infectious Brazilian pop samba groove that makes audiences go nuts.
Full disclosure: I’m not a huge Bowie fan, but Seu Jorge recasts the late artist’s work with such deep lyricism and sensuality that the resulting sounds are as irresistible as they are enthralling. For me, Bowie never sounded so good! Here’s what the composer himself wrote in the liner notes to The Life Aquatic Sessions: “Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs in Portuguese, I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with.”
It now seems ironic that most of us in North America became hip to Seu Jorge through his acting roles in City of God, a film about favela life, poverty and violence and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, the Wes Anderson film that featured Jorge as a guitar-playing member of a sea expedition crew. Today, it’s the vivid baritone voice and fluid guitar stylings along with film roles that have catapulted Seu to international stardom.
In performance, he exudes star power on stage—he has to; he’s the only person up there. You’d have to be in a phone booth across the street from the venue not be moved by his warmth and charisma. If his last Jazz Festival concert is any indication, he’ll have the entire Orpheum crowd singing along in blissful celebration. And I’m sure David Bowie’s spirit will be in the house.