Joyce Silveira Palhano de Jesus (b. 1948-01-31) is in my (biased :-) opinion the greatest living South American musician. Composer, performer, singer and guitarist, she comes from Rio de Janeiro, and is married to Brazilian jazz drummer Tutty Moreno. In a career spanning more than three decades she has recorded more than twenty albums and also written a book of her memoirs, as well as enchanted audiences around the world.
This is just a list of Joyce records I own. [I hope to get some more recent Joyce albums soon... :-] See Far Out Recordings's discography, another comprehensive discography with audio, or this older archived list.
This has got to be my favourite Joyce record, as it contains so many wonderful tracks in various Joyce styles, from simple songs with just guitar and voice to full on bateria carnival street parade music with surdos and agogos to the max. This album ('Urban Bird') was recorded in Italy while touring with the famous poet and songwriter Vinicius de Moraes, with the help of Italian producer Sergio Bardotti. Unlike most of her more recent albums where she writes most of the tunes, this (bar the last track) features Joyce's own versions of classic Brazilian music by songwriters who were being hounded and suppressed by the censors under Brazil's military dictatorship. Many tracks are mixed to flow into each other, as if a marching samba parade is going past and fading out into the distance, only to superseded by the next group in the parade. Interspersed around these percussion extravangzas with Joyce and chorus in full voice, are tender ballads of breathtaking beauty. Tracks such as Pesadelo, Fado Tropical, Bodas and Viola Fora de Moda stop my heart. Although perhaps not easy to find, and less than 40 minutes long, this album is highly recommended at any price.
This wondrous album was her first big success, and is still one of her own favourites; a good place to start for people new to her music (as would likewise be Passarinho Urbano or Just A Little Bit Crazy). The title track was the first Joyce song I ever heard (on Patrick Forge's "Cosmic Jam" radio programme), and it was love at first hearing. Everything about this music exudes pure joy, from the cascading guitar patterns and thrilling vocal and flute harmonies to the mountains of Latin percussion and jungle birdsongs. Other top tunes include Banana and Aldeia de Oxum which are similarly ecstatic grooves with frenetic guitar and vocal pyrotechnics. The other songs are more reflective and spiritual, my favourite being the sublimely simple but radiant Clareana, a lilting lullaby for her two daughters, with lush choir of voices, crystalline crotales and supercute children's laughter.
I felt compelled to write a full review of Joyce's new album with Banda Maluca, Just A Little Bit Crazy [Far Out Recordings FARO 077CD]. For me this is her best album in a decade, maybe two (although I don't know much of her work in between Tardes Cariocas (1983) and Hard Bossa (1999)). Here she has found a perfect blend of styles with a wonderfully talented group of musicians, sounding fresh and new, yet based on the traditions she holds so dear. The album ranges from the soulful samba folk music she sings so passionately, through jazz dance and bossanova to uplifting summer music and contemporary grooves, flavoured exquisitely with inventive instrumentation and intelligent production. And Tutty Moreno plays Canopus drums and Zelkova snare drum. Here's a brief run through the tracks:
This was one of the first Joyce albums I found (the Far Out Recordings 1997 reissue), and conjures up scorching summer days with its sunshine melodies and joyous harmonies. Three excellent uptempo numbers (Baracumbara, Curioso and Nacional Kid), featuring some incredible scat singing and the talents of Egberto Gismonti on guitar, accordion and keyboards, contrast with heartfelt lyrical ballads just right for those sultry summer evenings.
This collaboration between two virtuoso guitarists produced a striking album of creative contrasts and diverse visions. Some of the songs are quite experimental in structure and instrumentation, using odd time signatures and curious percussion and treatments, yet still sounding accessible in a psychedelic Seventies way.
Having seen the enchanting Brazilian chanteuse Joyce performing a few years ago at The Jazz Cafe in Camden, I was very happy to see her back again on this rare UK date promoting her new album with Banda Maluca, Just A Little Bit Crazy [Far Out Recordings FARO 077CD]. She was stunning.
We arrived early, and so had plenty of time to ensure we had a good view, before the place filled up to the brim. A few dancers could be seen in swirling dresses (Fabrizia included) warming up the dancefloor with Brazilian joie de vivre, while us mere mortals looked on. Eventually Joyce walked on stage with the most cosmic looking guitar I've seen since Prince's Blue Angel. Instead of her usual 12-string classical acoustic, she was sporting a cartoon-like headless electric model with a body made into the shape of a guitar, only it was just an outline, not solid, and the tuning knobs were at the bottom of the strings within this frame. She was accompanied by her husband Tutty Moreno on drumkit, the inimitable Teco Cardoso on soprano sax, alto and bass flutes, bamboo flutes, and an electric bassist (whose name escaped me, but I'll assume is Rodolfo Stroeter from the album). When it became apparent that there was no percussionist to make good use of the congas, shakers, guiro and bells which had been moved to the back of the stage (I suppose in hindsight they were for the support band Sirius B), I sent telepathic messages on all hailing frequencies to the band, offering my services if they needed a clave part holding down. I think they had it covered though.
The set began with A Banda Maluca, the opening track from the new album Just A Little Bit Crazy, setting a gentle pace to warm to the audience. The second track (which may well have been Azul Bahia from Gafieira Moderna) featured a devilishly complex rhythm section. Afterwards I made known my appreciation, and Tutty smiled first at the bassist, then at me, with that bewildered look of "Wow, did we really just play that through without falling over?"
Joyce introduced the third track Band On The Wall as referring to the club in Manchester where the emphasis is not so much on the musicians, but on the vibe they create. And this tune certainly hit the spot, bathing the audience in that feeling, a sublime state of grace that unites, transcends and explains everything. Ah, yes. We were so entranced that we failed to be vexed even by the 7/8 time signature.
Musicians and tunes may be forgotten
The music they played is worth the price
But aren't we all?
The Band On The Wall
Next Joyce said "And now to Africa...", launching into what I'm guessing was Forcas D'Alma (also from Gafieira Moderna), in which Teco gave us a fine Morrocan-style soprano sax solo. The fifth song was a more traditional bossanova, perhaps Diz Que Eu Tambem Fui Por Ai from Gafieira Moderna Then came London Samba from Hard Bossa with a sax solo and just when it seemed like they were supposed to stop, the bassist continued into a Magma-esque tritone bass solo that Jannick Top would be proud of, until Joyce finally told him to stop! ;-)
Seventh was For Hall from Just A Little Bit Crazy with Teco first on wooden piccolo, and then not one, but two bamboo flutes, simultaneously! His left hand was playing the finger-holes as usual, while his right hand was holding a different type of flute without finger-holes but where the pitch was changed by the amount that the end was (un)covered. This far-out display of dexterity lent a wonderful flavour of ancient (Mayan?) civilisations to the song. Meanwhile the bassist was reading from a score on his lap (!), and Tutty laid down a suitably tribal rhythm, which led into a fine drum solo. The eighth song was apparently another from Gafieira Moderna, but sounded to me like a version of a Glenn Miller tune (In The Mood I think), with Joyce posing the question:
What's a nice girl like you doin' in a place like this?
The next number was very quick, maybe a bit too quick. The tempo didn't let up with the tenth tune, during which a very slick bowler-hatted jazz dancer was sighted at the side of the stage, spinning and gyrating with impeccable style. Then came a wonderful song, Galope from the new album, with driving bass, relentless ride cymbal on offbeats and filtered flutter-tongue bass flute harmonics - a stormer! Finally Feminina saw Joyce inviting the (at first sheepish) jazz dancer up onto the stage where he clearly belonged. He was obviously a big fan and knew the song inside out, so his performance was a joy to behold as he danced with great flair and panache, always hitting the starts and stops dead spot on. Some of the moves he came out with brought cheers from the crowd, as he crouched down on one leg and then stood up again with his other leg raised in the air; there must be serious power in his muscles to pull it off so gracefully. This was the perfect tune to end on, a catchy number which had made Joyce famous outside her native Brazil, but the audience longed for more and couldn't bear to let her get on the plane back to Rio just yet! Bowled over yet again by the warmth of her reception by this happy London crowd, she gave us an encore of either Banana or Aldeia de Oxum (I forget which), also from Feminina.
My apologies to the support band Sirius B who played afterwards, but we left straight away, not wanting for anything else to affect our ecstatic state. Indeed, I'm still buzzing five days later... See you next time Joyce hits English shores!
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© copyright Malcolm Smith 2004-04-26 - last updated 2005-11-19 - links verified 2012-02-24