In a smooth and powerful tenor, he sings about Brazilian families and workers and their lives in the countryside. He captivates his audience with a simple humility and subtle charisma. He expresses genuine emotion through his guitar and songs with ease.
Already a young star in his home city of São Paulo, guitarist and singer Renato Braz, 39, is expected to be a Latin/jazz highlight of this year’s Wachovia Jazz Series. In a full-band return performance, he presents a variety of original works and folk standards in support of his recent album, Por Toda a Vida.
He first hit the Wachovia stages in 2004 to rousing applause.
“The first time I performed overseas was in Charleston,” Braz remembers. “I was amazed with the atmosphere there. People breathe art. The respect and attention I got was unforgettable. I’m sure that it will be very good again. I will bring to the concert some of my favorite songs and a group of guests that I consider real brothers because I know them for almost 20 years.”
As a young musician, the music of Brazil and South America influenced the songwriter’s musical ideas. Growing up in rural Brazil, he took in a variety of African, American, and Latin music — from boleros and ballads to pop and blues records from the U.S.
“I think that music doesn’t know boundaries,” he says. “My roots are the folk music of my homeland, but I think that it is never late to learn from neighbors. That make us very culturally rich. The core of my style comes from my parents, who are from the outskirts of Brazil. When you’re a teenager and realize that different things are happening in other parts of the world, it makes you willing to know what is going on the other side of the ocean. That’s why I ended up interested in African, American, and Latin music. By the way, Stevie Wonder is a great musical influence in my life.”
While the award-winning Braz initially found himself attracted to drums and percussion instruments, he only gradually found his way to playing the guitar and singing.
“My shyness avoided me to be the lead singer, therefore I thought it was easier singing behind the drums,” he says. “After that, I started learning guitar by myself and never stopped because I am always finding new things. Actually, the guitar has many possibilities. My playing and technique is dynamic and expressive. As a singer, I like to repeat everything that amazes me. My heart will always be the guide of my musical choices. There’s no other way of being honest to your public if you’re not honest with yourself. In fact, I don’t know how to define my technique; I am a self-learner.”
The guitarist and his longtime quintet — guitarist Gerson Oikawa, percussionists Bré and Guello, and bassist Sizao Machado — will perform original pieces, folk, standards, and works by the relatively unknown composing sibling duo Jean and Paolo Garfunkel —”Calcanhar de Aquiles,” “Por Toda a Vida,” and “Avenida São João,” among other selections.
‘The repertoire is basically composed of music by Brazilian composers of my generation and before that,” Braz says. “I also play ‘The Last Train’ by Don Grusin and ‘Yo Vengo Ofrecer Mi Corazon’ by the Argentinean legend Fito Paez. The first time I listened to ‘The Last Train,’ it was like I was in a real train traveling through the outskirts of Brazil. This song really touched my heart. It’s impossible to make a performance without playing the song ‘Anabela’ from my first album, Outro Quilombo.”
RENATO BRAZ • Spoleto Festival USA’s Wachovia Jazz Series • $15-$75 • (1 hour 15 min.) • June 1 at 8 p.m. • Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, 77 Calhoun St. • 579-3100