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Issue 707, Apr. 16-22, 2009

EMÍLIO SANTIAGO & DORI CAYMMI


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BIRDLAND, Apr 21-25

A balmy breeze and a storm cloud will collide at Birdland, when two illustrious veterans of Brazilian pop team up for a five-night run. Velvet-toned crooner Emílio Santiago is the voice of Rio’s good life. Ever since 1988, when he recorded Aquarela Brasileira—the first in a hit seven-album series of dreamily arranged Brazilian love songs—Santiago has stood as his country’s answer to Nat King Cole. His singing is ear candy, and in nightclubs he’s the easiest company: grinning, relaxed, unflappable even in the most pained ballad or pulsing samba. Agelessly boyish at 62, Santiago evokes a fantasy world of privileged Cariocas who bask in the sand, then drown their sorrows at some elegant boîte.

Count on Dori Caymmi, a composer, guitarist and singer from Bahia, to darken the mood. Onstage Caymmi, 65, is like the Old Man of the Sea, brow furrowed as he mutters sage story-songs from behind his guitar. In the States, where he’s lived for years, his grumbled, often wordless vocals have lent mystery to many jazz albums and to the soundtrack of
Havana, the 1990 Robert Redford vehicle. But Brazilians know him as the son of songwriter Dorival Caymmi, a Bahian folk hero. Dori emerged as his own man in the ’60s by cowriting two classics, “Saveiros” and “O Cantador” (known here as “Like a Lover”). Since then he’s proved himself a superbly tasteful arranger-producer for other singers (notably his sister, Nana Caymmi) and a performer who plumbs deep, murky waters.—James Gavin