Ivan Lins – Live at MCG

Jango - DreamtownIvan Lins
Live at MCG
by J. Barrett

In the States, Ivan Lins is better known for his songs than his singing. Ella Fitzgerald got the ball rolling, recording his “Madalena” in 1972. Others followed, including Sarah Vaughan, Terence Blanchard, and George Benson. Lins’ own records began to appear in the U.S. This, his first American live album, is a special event: a youth-jazz benefit, held in Pittsburgh at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. Lins loved the cause (he wants a similar center in Brazil) and it shows: this is a tender breeze that charms the crowd and stirs the passions.

The entrance is grand: an insistent piano leading to thick synthesizer. The drums start pounding, and it builds to an early head. Lins enters, and all is calm: a wistful voice with a bit of urgency. The band joins him on the happy chorus, and I feel like singing along. It gets stronger, Ivan starts scatting, and the big crowd responds. “Thank you” he says, surprised. I’m not.

The show is centered on slow ballads; on these his voice glows. Marco Brito lays a thick bed of keyboards; with Lins’ piano the decoration on top. It’s a little loud; at times the guitar is felt more than heard. Resting in the center is a male vocal unlike most. On “Comecar de Novo” he is vulnerable and sincere, a voice in doubt. “Love Dance”, from his 1989 album, is the only tune sung in English. With warm keys and a warmer heart, Ivan puts a ton of emotion in the Paul Williams lyrics. “Turn up the quiet – love wants to dance”. It’s a keeper; the crowd agrees. “Anjo de Mim” is the same mood, a tender thought rising among the synthetic strings. He gets quite passionate at the end, saying “Who loves you?” on the powerful chorus. The fadeout is strong, and the applause no less.

The ballads are his strength, but when it goes up-tempo Lins has fun. The voice gets busy on “E de Deus”; percussion boils as everyone yells out the chorus. The guitar steps forward on “Aquele Abraco”, an aggressive shout with raucous backing. Ivan is never more forceful, and I love it. A medley of Noel Rosa tunes gets a fast pace and a smiling voice. The piano fills are lovely and Jose Carlos Santos tries some Montgomery octaves. And everything stops for the xote, a rhythm that lopes as the guitar rings. The voice is bold, the synth many things: a harmonica here, muted trumpet there. This sucker moves, and so will you. “That’s the xote!” he laughs as the crowd whoops it up.

And after a break (the gentle “Henrysville”, dedicated to Mancini) the exuberance returns. A long medley begins introducing the band, percussive piano leading to insistent vocal. The strings take off, the big bass resumes. Lins is all over, from tender to intense as the music keeps pushing. He calls; the band responds – next a spot of chanting with enveloping drums. Santos strikes a Morse code guitar and a new tune begins, a swelling strength with mellow group vocals. Now the synth is a French horn, and Ivan goes deeper than normal. The tension builds at the end, and the release is wonderful – a thunder of cymbals, a funky organ vamp, the shout “Thank you, Pittsburgh!”, and applause that never ends. If you can hear one tune from this, make it this one.

Rating: *** ½. Highlights are dotted throughout: “Love Dance”, “E de Deus”, the torrid romance of “Aparecida”, and many more. The medleys are fun, and you gotta love the xote!

Songs: Somos Todos Iguis Nesta Noite; Comecar de Novo; E de Deus/Aquele Abracao; Love Dance; Feitio de Oracao; Quem Ri Malhor/Onde Esta a Honestidade; Anjo de Mim; Aparecida; Noturna; E Ouro Em Po (Xote); Henrysville; Menino/Cala a Boca Menino/Attention Please/Lua Soberana.

Musicians: Ivan Lins (lead vocals, keyboards); Marco Brito (keyboards, vocals); Jose Carlos Santos (guitar, vocals); Dimerval “Bororo” Silva (bass, vocals); Teo Lima (drums, vocals); Jaguaraci Machado (percussion).

For more info, contact Heads Up Records