Brazilian music was on the collective concert-going brain in town recently, as if by design —the great (greatest?) classical guitar duo the Assad Brothers dazzled at the Lobero theater, followed five nights later by a return engagement by the supreme jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves. (A summary observation: Things musically Brazilian play well in the cultured, sylvan seaside town of Santa Barbara, and in the Lobero’s winsome ambience.)
Like many jazz vocalists, Reeves, a living legend at 63, has long had an attraction to the sensual sophistication of Brazilian music, which she brought into sharper focus with her project “Beleza Brazil.” With her superb band — Brazilian hero Romero Lubambo on guitar, keyboardist John Beasley, and the supple bass-drums team of Itaiguaro Brandao and Rafael Barata — Reeves wove her spell via exacting technical graces, emotional incisiveness, tasteful scatting style, and her winning stage-side manner.
Over two sets, she covered Brazilian composers Milton Nascimento and Dori Cayymi (including the beguiling “Like a Lover”), as well as the hypnotic Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays samba-fied “Minuano.” That tune reminded of the central Brazilian connection in Metheny’s music and implicitly paid homage to the recently belated Metheny Group partner Mays.
Reeves called on two masterpieces from legendary Brazilian composer/pianist/songwriter Antonio Jobim — the “Quiet Nights” (dipping down to a surprising low note in her melodic sauntering) and the loopily lovely, lyrically surreal “Waters of March,” with which she closed the show. Earlier in the evening, Reeves teased us with a snippet of “Waters of March” in her own fetching original “Nine,” another pinch of Brazilian coloration in this concert mix.
Some of the deepest moments of this journey came through intimate, integrated duos with soulmate Lubambo, including an encore of the McCoy Tyner/Sammy Cahn charmer “You Taught My Heart to Sing.” Yes, she has.