It's hard to believe that Caetano Veloso's concerts this weekend at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre represent only the second time he has performed in Los Angeles. He is one of Brazil's most important musical figures, with a history that parallels the unfolding of Brazilian music in the post-bossa nova years.
Veloso, 57, was a kind of Brazilian Bob Dylan in the '60s. A leader of the Tropicalia movement, he was a musical radical eager to invigorate traditional music with the new currents of the decade, and because of his use of music to express ideas unacceptable to the country's military dictatorship, he lived in exile in London for two years in the early '70s. Since then he has continually expanded the horizons of his creative vision, producing an enormous range of material, from pop love songs to turbulent, expressive musical poetry.
Veloso's performance at the Ford will present yet another facet of his still extremely fertile musical imagination. He will work with a 12-piece ensemble directed by his frequent producer and collaborator, cellist Jacques Morelenbaum. In addition to Veloso's own guitar, the group includes trumpet, saxophone, trombone, guitar, bass and no fewer than five percussionists. Most of the music will come from his just released Nonesuch album, "Livro"--music that he describes as a combination of Miles Davis, Gil Evans and Bahian rhythms.
"Back in the late '50s, early '60s, I used to love cool jazz recordings--mostly Miles Davis," says Veloso. "And last year, when we were traveling through Europe, it was a very good opportunity to hear a lot of his recordings, especially with Gil Evans. As I was listening to the Gil Evans arrangements, I was remembering my feelings when I first heard them. And at the same time, I was feeling nostalgic for Carnival sounds.
"Then I thought about the contemporary aspect of this unlikely combination. So, although the two things had come to my mind in a random way, they made sense with some of my contemporary musical dreams."
Vastly different from his previous album, the Spanish-language "Fina Estampa" (which dominated his performance here in 1997), the music he will present at the Ford (where he will be joined for some songs by Beck, a musician strongly influenced by the Tropicalia movement) actually follows his more characteristic pattern of gathering a large group of individual elements and organizing them into a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.
Although Veloso considers himself "much more a New York person than a Los Angeles person," he is looking forward to experiencing parts of the Southland that he feels are unique to the environs of Los Angeles.
"I've had wonderful moments in Los Angeles. I like the feeling of the presence of nature as it's felt all over Los Angeles. It's incredible, so much more than I ever expected a city to have. It's very different you know--the presence of the desert and the mountains. It really helps you to feel the adventure of California."
* Caetano Veloso, Saturday and Sunday at John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, 8 p.m. $35 and $45. (323) 461-3673.
On Record: World music labels continue to proliferate. Atrium is a new imprint from Scandinavia, distributed by Atlantic Records. Most of the tongue-twisting names of the performers on the initial set of releases will not be familiar. But the music is fascinating, often combining unusual groups of voices and instrumentation, ranging from Triptyk's blend of traditional melodies with chamber jazz rhythms to saxophonist Jonas Knutsson's colorful excursions through atmospheric sets of orchestral and percussive sounds. Fascinating music, all of it.
Another new label, Climate, released by Six Degrees, also features music from Scandinavia in its first CD, "Northern Lights." Sami vocalist and joik specialist Ulla Pirttijarvi is included here, as is Annbjorg Lien, a master of the odd-sounding hardanger violin. The other new Climate release, harpist Monica Ramos' "Moai," moves into the space between world music and New Age, its floating sounds and trip-hop rhythms perfectly expressing the company's desire to discover music that "finds the place where ambient, New Age and global sounds all coexist together."