The international character of the Ystad Jazz Festival was enhanceddramaticallyin a concert by the Portuguese singer Maria João and the Brazilian guitarist Guinga. They performed in the venerable St. Mary’s Church on Ystad’s main square. João calls on folk music, avant-garde classical, Portuguese fado and other sources, but she is most often described as a jazz artist. Her background includes work with Joe Zawinul, Ralph Towner, Bobby McFerrin and Trilok Gurtu in addition to Guinga, Gilberto Gil and other stars of the Brazilian samba tradition.
Guinga (given name: Carlos Althier de Souza Lemos Escobar) is a lifelong guitarist whose profession was dentistry. His musical artistry was widely admired by many in the top tier of Brazilian musicians. In the 1990s, the Grammy-winning songwriter and singer Ivan Lins and others founded a record label specifically to record the guitarist. Since then, Guinga has built a reputation as one of Brazil’s leading players of the instrument and an innovative composer who often also sings.
João is a dramatic vocal actress capable of unleashing a torrent of Portuguese lyrics at supersonic speed, swinging all the way. At Ystad, in the course of a song she was likely to rise from baritone to coloratura soprano, with a corresponding emotional sweep. I know of no video of their Ystad performance. This amateur clip from a Sao Paolo concert in 2012 will give you an idea of Guinga’s and João’s compatibility, her preternatural vocal range and his skill as an accompanist.
Guinga’s and João’s concert was one of three exceptional duo performances during the festival. Coming up in the Rifftides reports on Ystad: impressions of Kenny Barron with Dave Holland and Viktoria Tolstoy with Mattias Svensson.