We saw Sara Tavares and her amazing band last night at the Skirball Center in LA. The short version of the review is, "if you have the opportunity, GO! And be willing to drive a good distance to see her."
Sara Tavares was born in Cape Verde but spent most of her life living in Portugal. Her music is a wonderful blend of African, Portuguese, Brazilian, and US R&B.
The show attracted a very interesting crowd. There were significant numbers of Cape Verdeans there as well as Portuguese nationals - she asked. Then there was a large group that probably reflected the typical Skirball crowd - middle aged and up, middle class and up, white folk. And a smaller group of twenty somethings who know great world music. The venue is a wonderful one with reasonably good sound and a real sense of intimacy. I would guess it seats around 300. Every seat felt very close to the stage. I would certainly go there again to see another show. Every seat was full, at least for the period when people were actually sitting. It wasn't long before everyone was up, dancing to the music.
Her band is a drummer, percussionist, bass, ukulele/electric guitar, and herself on vocals and nylon string guitar. The band is as tight as any I have ever seen, pulling off wonderful polyrhythms without a blink and starting and stopping on a dime. Most important though is that they were obviously having fun. This isn't just a job for them, it is obviously a passion filled with joy and a true sense of community. I've seen many shows with great musicians who each seemed to be in their own world. Things sounded good but I didn't feel as if they were really playing together. It was more like the parallel play child psychologists talk about in young children. This band was a unit and they were playing together.
The ukulele was especially interesting as the player used a lot of signal processing and looped it on more than one song. It added a great sound and texture to the mix. (He has me looking at them online this morning). He played it on well over half of the tunes. The percussion player caused my jaw to drop more than once and he and the drummer seemed almost to be attached to one another.
Sara Tavares is a lovely presence on the stage, glowing... but never overpowering her excellent band. She is also a good guitar player and has a haunting voice. She was obviously having fun too.
Joy permeated the entire performance. Even a soulful ballad (like the one in the video below) exuded a sense of joy and beauty. The upbeat tunes, most of the show, had the entire audience wishing there was a real dance floor available.
I don't know were she is in her tour, but I highly, highly recommend seeing her if you can. And if you can't see her, there is a DVD available of a live performance. I haven't seen any of it other than the three clips on youtube but if her show last night is at all representative of that disk, it is well worth owning.
here's a clip from the DVD of a ballad - Nha Cretcheu