Blissful Music
Braz’s serene, beautiful, and otherworldly sounds

At intermission, the look was evenly split: appreciative, massage-bliss face or the equally cow-eyed “point-me-to-the-bar” look most particular to husbands who suddenly realize they’ve become an accessory to a shoe-shopping binge in progress.

Which is not to dismiss last night’s Gaillard performance outright. However, by the time he took the stage Friday evening, Mr. Braz was two days late: he and his audience would have been better served had his performance taunted Wednesday night’s full moon. His music that night would have shorn the edges off jangled nerves and soothed the mid-week blues, for his is a particular talent, but not the stuff to kick off Friday night.

Walking onto the stage like a beardless, long-haired guru in white, Mr. Braz eased into his evening with a haunting ballad accompanied solo on his guitar. The next two pieces, also contemplative, set up an aura in the auditorium: serene beauty and wordless feeling; like dawn breaking over a still lake. I wanted to hear that day get going, to have it fleshed out. The evening’s performance offered only glimpses.

Mr Braz’s music has been called lyrical, plaintive. Indeed, in Mr. Braz’s hands, the lurid, gaudy palette of the rainforest is rendered in washes of watercolor; the dark, magical corners of the jungle become manicured, well-mannered pastels without feral, beastly inclinations. There is no sign of real blood anywhere. The earthy becomes ethereal and while the music itself looks to invoke musical devas out of the ether, it merely washes over the auditorium audience, inviting little connection from the less exalted.

The musicianship across the board, in particular from José Luis Bré and Guello on percussion and Sizao Michado on bass, points toward a strong, passionate sense of place and time. The livelier numbers were very well received, demonstrating the crowd’s willingness to work with the performers, but in the end, one wonders where valid artistic decision-making ends and self-indulgence — even the gracious, charming, talented variety — begins.


RENATO BRAZ • Spoleto Festival USA’s Wachovia Jazz Series

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