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Arthur Verocai @ The Luckman 3/15/09

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Photo by Azul 213

Photo by Azul 213
Performing in Los Angeles for the first time, Brazilian jazz composer-arranger Arthur Verocai led a 36-piece orchestra through many of his soulful compositions on Sunday night at the Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State LA.Sunday night's Verocai performance marks the third installment of the Timeless: The Composer/Arranger Series presented in conjunction by VTech, Mochilla and ArtDontSleep. Previous performances this year included Ethiopian jazz legend Mulatu Astatke and the late celebrated hip-hop composer/producer J Dilla.

Originally released in 1972, Verocai’s eponymous album became a landmark work spanning various jazz, bossa nova, soul, folk and pop textures. Although the album was not a commercial success, it has influenced many contemporary musicians and is now a highly sought-after album by DJs and crate diggers.

On Sunday night, Verocai conducted the orchestra as they played through his seminal album. Though some of songs seemed short, but many leant themselves towards the cinematic - lush strings swell and undulate against swinging rhythm sections as vocalists Carlos Dafé and Clarisse Grova create celestial harmonies. Dafe was one of the original singers on Verocai’s first album; Grova sang on his second. Keyboardists Jose Bertrami and Alosisio Aguiar, on Rhodes, Hammond organ and piano, were a delight to watch as they demonstrated an immense amount of technical skill and feel.

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Verocai’s style of music is at times evocative of the pastoral as lighter-than-a-feather touches are threaded through delicate open-aired melodies. On some more aggressive sections, Verocai lit a fire under the orchestra as they built funky soulful grooves over pressure-cooker beats. The excellent rhythm section included bossa nova legend Ivan “Mamao” Conti on drums who augmented the compositions into pure bossa nova soul.

Earlier sets in the night included Madlib and DJ Nuts. Overall, the sound was clear and crisp. Live background video of Verocai and the musicians, which was done in black in white, provided an interesting contrast to the colorfully and casually dressed musicians.

The second set opened with Verocai on a cutaway classical guitar that showed his mastery of the samba guitar. His melodic ascending and descending lines with flashes of shimmering and tremulous chords were absolutely stunning.

Overall, Verocai’s performance proved to be another exceptional event from the Timeless series.

Special thanks to Arthur Verocai, all the night’s performers, Mochilla, ArtDon’tSleep, Azul 213 and Jeanette Liang at GolinHarris