Brazilian guitarist-composer Guinga's Los Angeles performance in spring 2005 was scintillating enough to arouse enthusiasm for a prompt return engagement. And the wish was fulfilled Friday night at Walt Disney Hall in a program offering a considerably expanded view of his beguiling musical vision.
The opening half of the concert showcased Guinga with the musicians who have been his essential performing ensemble for years: guitarist Lula Galvao, clarinetist Paul Sergio and trumpeter-flugelhorn player Jesse Sadoc.
Guinga's music, shifting textures and moods from piece to piece, unfolded in a colorful tapestry of traditional Brazilian elements, from samba and choro to baiao and occasional bursts of jazz and bossa nova.
The net effect came across as an intriguing, interactive blend recalling several seemingly disparate references. There were times when the quartet flowed with the intuitive interplay of a smoothly functioning basketball team. Guinga's strumming was the propulsive engine, driving the music with the selfless creativity of a fine point guard, while Sergio and Sadoc worked the music back and forth and Galvao, the principal soloist, led the point-making. At other times, pure jazz took over, with both horn players, in particular, improvising with the inventiveness of world-class jazz artists. Underscoring it all was the essential Brazil-ness of the rhythms, of the musicians' capacity to create an astonishing degree of visceral, dancing swing without the presence of a single percussion instrument.
For the program's second half, another collection of Guinga's music was transformed into large symphonic works via superb arrangements by the gifted young Brazilian orchestrator Paulo Aragao.
Aurally, the textural sound of the quartet and the Los Angeles Philharmonic was magical. But the rhythmic impact was less compelling. Although conductor Vince Mendoza has a sophisticated command of the various genres present in Guinga's music, there were numerous passages in which the relative stiffness of the Philharmonic's playing seemed out of sync with the subtle ease of the quartet's rhythms. It was, nonetheless, fascinating to experience the full panoply of Guinga's idiosyncratic creative universe.
Guest artist Ivan Lins made a far too-brief appearance in the second half, applying his intimate vocal sound to a pair of Guinga numbers, as well as his own "Comecar de Novo."