Review: Ed Motta at Ronnie Scott's

Ed Motta at LCY airport October 2013

Ed Motta
(Ronnie Scott’s  12th October 2013. Review by John L. Walters)

The Brazilian singer, songwriter and instrumentalist Ed Motta is a pop artist with the soul of a jazz musician. He makes light, seemingly effortless music that connects with musicians and jazz fans at a profound level, through artistry, musicianship and an engaging personality.

Look at Motta’s Instagram account and you’ll get some sense of the man as bon viveur, gourmand, music maven and touring performer – the pictures map out a mouth-watering stream of delicious entrées and desserts and vintage wine labels, plus sound check snaps, gig posters and backstage selfies. He also posts CD covers and LP sleeves from his 30,000+ collection, which includes rarities by George Russell and John Tchicai alongside Brazilian and Blue Note classics. The sense of someone who enjoys life’s pleasures with discernment and relish applies also to his choice of chords and his flamboyant Rhodes piano flourishes.

Motta’s spoken-word introductions are charming and spontaneous – he began his first set at Ronnie’s with a few words about the late Ronnie Scott, talking warmly about the recordings the club’s founder had made with Tubby Hayes and with the Kenny Clarke / Francy Boland big band.

The five-strong band launched into Playthings of Luv, with an eloquent guitar solo from longstanding ally Paulinho Guitarra. This was followed by several more songs from the English-language version of his new album AOR [Adult Oriented Radio], an outrageously accurate tribute to the super-smooth, musicianly ‘Yacht Rock’ of the late 1970s (Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers, etc.).

The most moving and exhilarating section was a long, improvisational a cappella vocal section in which he sang and beatboxed ingeniously, imitated fuzz bass (Smoke on the Water) and vocoder bass (Let’s Groove Tonight) and used his voice as an instrument in a multitude of ways. This, he explained, in one of many discursive anecdotes, is something he’s done since schooldays as a way to deflect potential bullies – ‘Hey, the fat guy knows how to do ET!’

He also joked about the different ways that people pronounce his name (in Brazil it’s said more like ‘Edgy Motta’ or ‘Edge’) and the way he’d acquired his English accent from watching The Avengers and Gerry Anderson puppet shows like Joe 90.

Motta dazzled the (highly partisan) audience by scatting, playing and singing with passion and refinement. With his girth and owlish spectacles, there’s a element of caricature in his appearance, but he’s always serious about the music. He imbued each of AOR’s songs with a different character, scatting beautifully on Simple Guy; on 1978 he vocally imitated the millefiori intricacy of the horn section on the album version.

It would be wonderful to hear Motta return to the UK with a full brass section – perhaps at the Barbican or Southbank or Kings Place – or a longer stint at Ronnie’s. Maybe the UK is finally ready for this Brazilian giant.

- John L Walters INTERVIEWED Ed Motta for the Guardian in 2006.

Ed Motta website

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