The Fujitsu Concord Jazz Fest celebration of summery bossa nova, originally skedded as a June concert, finally nestled at Carnegie Hall, with an autumnal tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim. With exotic imagery of couples swaggering down a sandy beach, the intoxicating strains of a Jobim song hold an enveloping seductive spell. Autumn Samba brought together a stellar potpourri of vocal stars and musicians, topped by Brazilian songbird Gal Costa.
Costa, a handsome lady with a voice textured with silk and honey, certainly hit the Jobim songbook standards, with a sensuous “Agua de Berber” (Drinking Water) and the rhythmic carnival dance “One Note Samba.” The Portuguese language of Brazil has a decided flexibility and subtlety that lends itself so beautifully to romantic settings. Its picturesque sound is capable of transporting the listener to exotic locales.
With the warming cello support of Jacques Morelenbaum, Costa revealed the dark grandeur of “How Insensitive” and framed Hoagy Carmichael’s confessional of a hopeless romantic, “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” with a gentle and loping bossa tempo.
Pianist Riuchi Sakamoto and cellist Morelenbaum provided a serene setting for singer Paula Morelenbaum. The trio displayed both the rich classical subtext of Jobim’s songs and their deep-seated fire and passion with a triplet including “O Amor en Paz” (Once I Loved).
Tom Scott took the star tenor spot, originally set for Scott Hamilton last summer. The tandem tribute included a nod to Stan Getz, who gave jazz a vital and much needed shot in the arm in 1962, with the breakthrough bossa record “Jazz Samba.” Scott offered a plaintive solo on “Here’s That Rainy Day” and backed Costa for “Desafinado” and “The Girl From Ipanema,” but his tone is friskier than that of Getz and falls short of the classic subtlety and grace we have all come to associate with the memorable Getz performance.
Surprise guest was cushy crooner Michael Feinstein, who slipped in to sing a lushly layered “Corcovado” (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars) with Costa. The saloon star dubbed Jobim the Gershwin of Brazil and illustrated with a bossa take on “Shall We Dance.” Romero Lubambo’s accompanying guitar provided an exquisitely rich chordal and textural flight into mood and starlit dance patterns. If only Fred and Ginger could have danced the bossa nova to a Gershwin tune.
Also on hand was pulse setter John Pizzarelli, who reminded all that Jobim’s music was a functional base for adventurous jazz improv. His frisky guitar lines, sensual Portuguese balladering and sailing scat chorus framed “So Danco Samba” as a wonderfully perky dance spree.
All gathered for “Felicidad,” so intoxicating and crowd pleasing that the entire company returned for a reprise of the tune. A capacity aud was tossing bouquets and dancing in the aisles.