POP MUSIC REVIEW : Caymmi Plays Sounds of Brazil

To those observers who equate rock ‘n’ roll with Armageddon, the sounds of Brazil represent a last bastion of melody, harmony and good taste in pop music. For such listeners, the Tuesday opening of Dori Caymmi at Le Cafe (he closes tonight) was an event of rare significance.

It was the first show in this country for the second-generation composer, singer and guitarist (his father, Dorival Caymmi, was one of the 1960s pioneers of bossa nova). Surrounding him were three versatile locals: Gregg Karukas on keyboard, John Leftwich on bass and Michael Shapiro on drums.

The junior Caymmi, now portly and graying, creates themes in the same graceful spirit that marked the early works of the Brazilian new wave. His guitar, used mainly for self-accompaniment, has a dancing, almost gypsy-like quality. The amplification was a hair excessive at times, but effective use was made of a slight reverberation on his voice.

Karukas, using a flute-like synth effect here and there, added a touch of the old Brazilian sound.


Still more typical of what enchanted so many North Americans originally were a few closing numbers for which Caymmi was joined by Gracinha Leporace, the singing wife of Sergio Mendes. A small, dark woman with a modest, gentle voice, she joined with him for duets in English, Portuguese and the international language of wordlessness.

The Brazilian innovations of the ‘80s are notably more energetic than those of yesteryear, but Caymmi has found a middle ground between then and now that works well enough to retain the old attraction while adding a needed contemporary rhythmic impetus.

He encored with a solo piece, his own “El Cantador” (“Like a Lover”). As on the other occasions when he performed without the band, it was among the brightest moments of this most engaging hour.