REVIEW: Ivan Lins at Ronnie Scott's

Ivan Lins in 2014
Photo from artist website


Ivan Lins
(Ronnie Scott's. 29 May 2017. First night of two. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

This was a heart-warming late-career club debut at Ronnie Scott's for Ivan Lins, in front of a crowd that knew every twist and turn of his songs and was there to sing its collective (and well-in-tune) heart out.

Lins is one of the great Brazilian songwriters. Just short of the grand old age of 72, he is full of life, he stands proud and tall at the electronic keyboard, band-leading, dictating the pace of the show, facing straight out at the audience and effortlessly spreading a happy vibe. He also has a top-flight band.

He was born in Rio, and is perhaps the urban sophisticate among Brazilian songwriters. His songs are always harmonically fleet of foot, and go off in all kinds of unexpected directions. Last night we could witness Lins himself at close quarters, enjoying his own hand-placing for the next unusual/ exotic chord. In one particularly harmonically wayward, Randy Newmman-esque song, É Ouro Em Pó - his eyes flashed all round the room in feigned amazement as if to locate the door through which a particularly gorgeous chord sequence had just been let into the room.

Lins' songs are popular among Brazilians, but have only occasionally taken on another life and "made it" in North America. The better known ones tend to be the more spacious and romantic: Começar de Novo had some gloopy lyrics poured over it courtesy the Bergmans and became the Barbra Streisand hit The Island . Lembrança got some rather better lyrics from Paul Williams and became Love Dance - Lins doffed the hat to George Benson for making that happen. These and other popular Lins tunes, were what the Brazilian audience was expecting. And at the end of the show this audience (which definitely knew what it wanted) was insisting in no unceertain terms that  the encore should be the hit that had thus far got away: Madalena - Lins' first hit,  a success in 1970  for the great Elis Regina.

For those of us who don't speak the language, there was also much to marvel at. Lins' band includes that real deal among latin drummers Chris Wells, a native Brit now based in Portugal. a guitarist Claudio Cesar Ribeiro, and a pianist Andre Sarbib, both with an ideal sense of solo construction, and a bassist with the most nonchalantly perfect sense of placement, Nema Antunes

The support set was from a new and very promising latin project called Almanac Quartet, led from the guitar by that true Gentleman of Verona and fine guitarist Luca Boscagin, with Quentin Collins on trumpet, doing joyous explorations of Brazilian repertoire.

Ivan Lins is on again tonight at Ronnie Scott's

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