Djavan’s melodic warmth is essential when Mother Nature and Old Man Winter team up.
Warming up to Djavan is easy. It turns out that our favorite songs are just a tap or click away. Let’s look back.
by Scott Adams
South America’s hump belongs to Brazil, and roughly halfway between Salvador and Natal lies the coastal city of Maceió. Flyover country, except for the 3.5 million people born and raised in the capital city of Alagoas.
One of them is Djavan Caetano Viana. We know him best by his first name.
A history of misses
I keep coming up short with Djavan when it comes to my bucket list for Brazilian Concerts.
One year, I missed him by a single day in Rio de Janeiro, another time I received a refund when he canceled a São Paulo show due to illness.
Then there was the time I had planned to see him in Miami before he called off his flight and subsequently a multi-city US tour.
Los Angeles? Fine. New York? Okay, but here in the icy grasp of another character-building Chicago winter, warming up to Djavan ‘live’ just isn’t as easy as it could be.
The Brazilian singer and songwriter was set to perform here in September 1988. I was in Brazil. One of Chicago’s premier outdoor venues had an opportunity a few years ago but they opted for Gilberto Gil instead.
More recently Djavan’s asking price was too high for another supportive venue. Not unusual, that’s just business.
Then fast forward to 2020 and Djavan’s Vesuvio tour, announced in early January and canceled due to Covid-19 shortly thereafter. Will Djavan ever return?
The warmth of Djavan
With a track record like that, you’d think I’d be frustrated. But the truth is that with Djavan, none of that matters.
Because when it comes to the magic of Brazilian MPB, few can come close to the sheer joy I feel whenever I hear one of his songs.
To my way of thinking, this musical macumba applies to a select few of Brazil’s star performers. And it’s generational. It belongs to those singer/songwriters that have purposefully defined Brazilian pop for the last 30 years.
Who’s doing that today? Well, that’s another story.
Djavan’s Tradewind trade mark
If Djavan were born in Rhode Island instead of Alagoas he’d probably be considered a crossover jazz singer. His music swings so naturally that Michael Bublé should take note.
Instead, he’s in the same camp as John Legend, Will Downing, or Luca Giaco. Djavan moves through a myriad of styles and song forms – in English or Portuguese – with ease.
You can bet Djvavn’s fans know and they love it.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that jazz, rock, and Brazilian pop mingle on the radio dial and in the bars, clubs, and restaurants throughout Maceió.
And the trade winds? Replace Rhode Island with San Diego to shed some light on Djavan’s breezy style.
Djavan’s talent elevates the creativity of those around him. Inspiring ‘musical moments’ that have a seemingly eternal half-life.
Two of my favorites? Trumpeter Marcio Montarroyos’s opening solo on ‘Cigano’ and Torcuato Mariano’s acoustic guitar riffs on ‘Linha Do Ecuador’.
Both will make a lasting impression… and both are included in this week’s show for The Sounds of Brazil: ‘The Best of Djavan’. You’re welcome to listen.
The Warmth of Djavan: Thumbnail Reviews
So, when warming up to Djavan, winter is a great place to start. That’s because Djavan has a late January birthday. Here are choice quotes from Connect Brazil’s reviews of several of his earlier albums.
Then, a real treat for Djavan fans. So, keep reading!
Puzzle of Hearts
On ‘Puzzle of Hearts’: “This is Djavan at the peak of his career: his voice is supple and sharp, his range matching his abilities; his standout pop songwriting is fresh and uniquely Brazilian. Listen for the bi-lingual tinge given to ‘Voce Bem Sabe’ – there’s no doubt that Djavan knows how to get the message across no matter what language you speak.”
On ‘Pétala’: “Djavan’s talent as a singer and songwriter is such that fans didn’t have long to wait for his first ‘best of’ collection. The playlist moves from strength to strength – as you’d expect for a ‘hits’ CD, – but also through the ebb and flow of the singer’s emotion, and that’s Djavan’s calling card.”
On ‘Lilas’: “Recorded in Los Angeles (as was his previous album ‘Luz’ in 1982), the music here is right on track with the American ear and production from the great Erich Bulling plus the crème de la crème of the L.A. studio scene and a host of talented Brazilians make this one of his best early recordings.”
Coisa de Acender
On ‘Coisa de Acender’: “This CD marked a reunion for Djavan with producer Ronnie Foster, who also guided the Brazilian singer’s 1988 release ‘Bird of Paradise’ while on leave as George Benson’s longtime keyboardist. This time around Foster turned away from the jazzy pop tones of their earlier project for a more authentic, swinging MPB set and in doing so, allowed Djavan to explore the seemingly limitless nuance of his own songwriting creations.”
Bird of Paradise
On ‘Bird of Paradise’: “Brazilian ‘purists’ often deride this recording as ‘not Brazilian’ and they’re right. But they are also wrong: ‘Bird of Paradise’ remains as one of Djavan’s greatest recordings. His songwriting for this project is superb – melodies range from eloquent (the title track) to poignant (‘Miss Susanna’) to several up-tempo tunes with lasting hooks, as on the horn-driven ‘Take Me’ (‘Me Leve’) and ‘Maça’ (Apple).”
Front Row Center with Djavan
Grammy winner, Latin Grammy winner, World-Class melody maker. Is warming up to Djavan on your bucket list, too? If so, let me help.
The 90-minute DVD video below captures Djavan in concert with his Aria Tour, filmed live in Belo Horizonte. You’re sure to love his performance, often featuring guitarist Torcuato Mariano.
It’s the perfect tonal tonic for those of us who are Djavan fans until he returns to American venues once again.
When that happens, let me know where you’d like to meet because chances are pretty good I’ll already have a ticket.
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Djavan’s full-length concert performance
Warming up to Djavan? Here he is with the entire concert from the ‘Aria’ Tour. Enjoy!
Djavan – Aria Ao Vivo
Presented by Luanda Records
Djavan, Vocals, Guitar
Torcuato Mariano, Guitarts
Andre Vasconcelos Bassist
Marcos Suzano, Percussion
Filmed Live at Grande Teatro do Palacio das Artes em Belo Horizone, April 8-9, 2011
Eu Te Devoro
Lambada de Serpente
Oração Ao Tempo
Faltando Um Pedaço
Disfarça E Chora
Brigas Nunca Mais
Fly Me To the Moon
Treze de Dezembro – Instrumental
Flor de Lis
Linha do Equador
Treze de Dezembro – Extended Version