In a stripped-down setting, Brazilian singer Vinicius Cantuaria elicits the gentlest of sounds from his hollow-body electric guitar and sings with a fragile voice on the verge of tears. What he didn’t elicit in his opening set at the Jazz Bakery was the unique melange of samba rhythms, bossa nova melodies and vocal lushness that fill his most recent disc “Silva” (Hannibal).
“Silva” is a minor masterpiece rooted in bossa nova with touches of the Brazilian pop known as MPB and augmented with angular modernist touches and strings; the album’s spatially diverse mix of instruments alone makes for some rather arresting listening. With a band of drums, bass, trombone and hand percussion the tunes are left too barren, and the renderings often are too similar to each other. The best Brazilian music sways, but in this setting, Cantuaria has chosen to tiptoe.
Bassist Paul Socolow attempts to compensate for the missing background, but his electronic tweaks go only so far. Drummer Paulo Braga provides some urgency to the arrangements, but Jay Ashby’s trombone solos, pleasant as they are, become repetitive over the course of an hour.
A larger band would work wonders in presenting the Cantuaria listeners have grown to love from the half-dozen of his recordings that have been released in the U.S.
He performs Tuesday through Feb. 4 at the Jazz Standard in New York.