by Ian Mann
February 06, 2024
A highly enjoyable evening of authentic Brazilian music performed by a hugely talented duo, plus their very capable guests.
Mario Bakuna / Satin Singh Duo, Kidderminster Jazz Club, St. Ambrose Parish Centre, Kidderminster, Worcs., 02/02/2024.
Mario Bakuna – acoustic guitar, vocals, Satin Singh – percussion
with guests; Linda Angelis – vocals, Rafael Lopes – alto saxophone
Kidderminster Jazz Club’s February event drew the largest crowd yet to the Club’s still relatively new home at St. Ambrose Parish Centre. KJC’s regular audience was augmented by members of the West Midlands’ Brazilian and Portuguese communities for this visit from the popular Brazilian born, London based guitarist and vocalist Mario Bakuna.
Bakuna has been resident in the UK for thirteen years and has become a busy and popular presence on the live music scene in his adopted country, playing with many of Britain’s leading jazz musicians and appearing at many of the country’s top jazz venues. He also tours widely in Europe and North America and is a musician with an international reputation.
Bakuna performs with a wide variety of different line ups but often appears in a duo format with a percussionist for company. His debut album “Where Rio de Janeiro Meets Bahia” (2019) features the duo of Bakuna and percussionist Edmundo Carneiro, while tonight’s show was originally billed as featuring drummer / percussionist Uccio Gaeta, a member of Bakuna’s quartet. On the night Gaeta was replaced by Satin Singh, a vastly experienced musician and session veteran and a player with whom Bakuna has worked previously. Singh was featured playing congas, pandeiro, shakers and a variety of other small percussive items.
Before leaving his native land Bakuna had already accrued an impressive reputation and had performed with many of the leading figures in Brazilian music. Since coming to the UK he has continued to extol the virtues of Brazilian music, bringing the sounds of Rio and Bahia to enthusiastic audiences up and down the country.
My Portuguese is practically non-existent, so this is not going to be the usual song by song live review, but instead a more general impression of what was a hugely successful evening for KJC. Bakuna hadn’t formalised a set list and played ‘in the moment’ and ‘to the room’, responding to the audience and selecting his songs from a large repertoire of material. His singing voice is warm, relaxed and, even though I couldn’t understand the words, conversational. He is also a hugely accomplished guitarist, a quiet virtuoso whose impressive technique is largely deployed to serve the singing and the songs. Nevertheless Bakuna’s skill as a guitarist shouldn’t be underestimated.
Similarly Singh’s percussion was also deployed to enhance the songs, providing both rhythmic impetus and colourful splashes of sonic detail, with congas and pandeiro his principal instruments. The latter is a traditional Brazilian instrument, similar to the tambourine, and has its origins in Iberia.
Bakuna’s second album, “Brazilian Landscapes”, was released in 2021 and features an Anglo-Brazilian quartet with Sam Watts on piano, Mattheus Nova on bass and Marcinho Pereira on drums and percussion. It’s an apt album title and the recording includes material from many of Brazil’s leading composers and embraces musical styles from different parts of the country. I suspect that much of tonight’s material was sourced from this album, the only recording that was available at the merch desk.
The first set took us on a musical tour of Brazil that included visits to Pernambuco and Bahia and featured two songs from the celebrated Brazilian guitarist and composer Baden Powell (1937 – 2000). The Powell songs provided both Bakuna and Powell with opportunities to demonstrate their instrumental capabilities. The first of these included some dazzling fret work from Bakuna plus a similarly impressive conga feature from Singh. The second was introduced by a solo passage of virtuoso finger picked guitar from Bakuna that left one in no doubt as to his abilities as an instrumentalist.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the music was Bakuna’s deployment of his voice as an additional instrument, specifically the trumpet. Both his albums credit him with ‘vocal trumpet’ and he does indeed do an uncannily convincing approximation of the sound of the ‘real thing’. Bakuna’s ‘vocal trumpet’ is an extraordinarily flexible instrument and other listeners also detected resemblances to the sounds of trombone and flugel horn, while one song also saw him imitating the sound of the cuica, the Brazilian percussion instrument which in turn mimics the human voice. There was also a second episode of vocal percussion that was almost reminiscent of the konnakol technique deployed in Indian music. Bakuna’s use of ‘vocal trumpet’ (and the rest) helped to expand the duo’s sound and was undeniably impressive, although it did eventually begin to pall over the course of two lengthy sets.
The second set continued the musical journey and even included a number of songs that I actually knew. As far as I’m aware there weren’t any Antonio Carlos Jobim songs in the first set, but now we heard a version of arguably the most famous Brazilian song of them all, “The Girl From Ipanema”, which inevitably went down very well with the audience. Bakuna’s reading was substantially different to the usual ‘supper club’ versions, his singing of the Portuguese lyric and his rhythmic guitar phrasing imbuing the song with a greater sense of authenticity. Also included in this set was Cole Porter’s “Get Out of Town”, delivered in a bossa style arrangement and with Bakuna singing in English for the only time.
Tonight’s was a particularly laid back and informal performance, imbued with a gentle bonhomie. It was in this spirit that Bakuna invited guest vocalist Linda Angelis to the stage to deliver a second Jobim song. A professional musician with three albums to her credit Manchester born Angelis sang the song in Portuguese, making this a very impressive cameo indeed.
Also in the audience was Rafael Lopes, a Portuguese saxophonist who studied on the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire and is now based in Dudley. Lopes is also a professional musician and largely plays sessions and in function bands, in addition to also working as a DJ. He is an old associate of Bakuna’s and relished the opportunity to add alto sax (he also plays tenor) to the last two songs of the set, plus the deserved encore.
Lopes’ alto was a welcome addition to the duo’s sound and it was a shame that we didn’t hear a bit more from him. When Bakuna first became aware that Lopes was in the audience he had suggested a guest appearance, but Lopes had to drive back to Dudley to pick up his sax. It was well worth the journey, though.
Lopes impressed on the final number of the night, a segue that featured two more tunes that I actually knew, Chick Corea’s “500 Miles High” and Milton Nascimento’s “Vera Cruz”.
The second set featured no fewer than twelve songs (including the encore) and other notable moments included Bakuna employing the body of his guitar as a form of percussion and also dampening the strings to provide the taut, highly skilled rhythmic accompaniment to a couple of Singh’s virtuoso conga and percussion features. The Corea / Nascimento segue featured a series of vocal trumpet and alto sax exchanges with Bakuna’s contribution a rough cross between the sounds of orthodox trumpet and scat vocals.
Despite my minor reservations this was a highly enjoyable evening of authentic Brazilian music performed by a hugely talented duo, plus their very capable guests. It attracted an overwhelmingly favourable reaction from one of the largest audiences ever seen at KJC and organiser Annette Gregory must have been delighted with the evening. It was just a shame that Mario couldn’t persuade her to sing a song with the duo.
There was even more good news when Annette revealed to the audience that she has been successful in obtaining Arts Council funding to acquire an upright acoustic piano for use at St. Ambrose. The instrument will make its KJC debut on 1st March 2024 when the young pianist and composer Eddie Gripper will visit with his trio.
My thanks to Mario and Rafael for speaking with me after the show. I think it’s fair to say that everyone left this event with a little Brazilian sunshine in their hearts. Mario Bakuna made a lot of friends in Kidderminster tonight and it’s quite possible that he may return to KJC at some point in the future.blog comments powered by Disqus