With its Hebrew name and Lebanese cuisine, it may seem odd that La Ve Lee, the restaurant at 12514 Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, recently launched an entertainment policy with Brazilian music. (Not strange to the owner, however; as he pointed out, they’ve got an awful lot of Lebanese in Brazil. )
The leader of the resident quartet, now heard weekly from Wednesday through Saturday, is Octavio Bailly, an electric bass player and composer who keeps the rhythmic impetus continuously and contagiously at work.
In partnership with Bailly is Liz Kinnon, who doubles on electric piano and a DX7. Though not usually associated with Latin American music (she also works with the group called Jazzbirds), Kinnon has taken to the idiom as if to the samba born.
It’s not just the samba, but a heady mixture of bossa nova, Latin waltzes and other variations of the South American beat. Though the group plays relatively new compositions such as “The Island” and “Dinorah,” both by Ivan Lins, the mood leans more to an early, pure sound redolent of 1960s Brazilian music; in fact, when it turns to a song from that era such as “Agua de Beber,” you are thrown into a most agreeable time warp.
One set began with Edu Lobo’s “Zanzibar,” played in deft octave unison by Kinnon and Bailly. “Suave,” an original by Bailly, was an attractive showcase for Kinnon on the DX7, with solid support by the drummer Claudio Slon, who remained a potent force throughout the evening.
Much of the time, perhaps a little too much, is devoted to Flavia Demello, a small woman with a voice to match, who sings mainly in Portuguese with occasional side trips in English.
The Bailly bunch exudes a sense of good humor and cohesion with its neatly constructed arrangements, most of them by the leader or Kinnon. It adds up to a refreshing and mildly exotic note in a locale where you might least expect it. (In case you are curious, the translation of the room’s name is “For Her and for Me.”) The four-night-a-week policy will continue indefinitely.