By Tim Nelson
Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist bandleader Vinicius Cantuaria has been described as the guru of post-bossa or post-electronica acoustic. But post-anything seems like faint praise for music which is so sweet and easy, yet, at the same time, profound and subtle. If the music often recalls that of his idol, Tom Jobim (the writer of Astrid Gilberto's Girl from Ipanema), then this is more to say that Cantuaria's music extends Jobim's songs' archetypal beauty rather than merely apes it, as much here on Cymbals as on previous albums Silva, Horse and Fish, and his 1996 breakthrough album Sol Na Cara. Besides writing Caetono Veloso’s biggest-selling hit, Lua e Estrela, and providing Fabrio Jr. with a 2-million seller in So Voce during the course of his thirty-year career, Cantuaria has collaborated with such giants of the left-field as David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, Bill Frisell and Ryuichi Sakamoto. However, his work under his own name avoids the more challenging and experimental nature of some of their output in favour of an utterly accessible style that only reveals its many dimensions on repeated listening: For instance, in his cover of Jobim's Vivo Sonhando.
Unlike previous albums, Cymbals was recorded entirely in New York. It has regular collaborators such as Steely Dan's former trumpeter Michael Leonhart and guest-stars like Angelique Kidjo and is produced solely by Cantuaria, but continues the hypnotic acoustic explorations of its predecessors, with some brilliant piano from Brad Mehidan on Voce Esta Sumindo and guitar from Cantuaria himself on Prantos, as well as touches of electronica in Chuva and Champs de Mars. The playing throughout is telepathic, particularly on O Batuque, Ominara, or the jazz-inflected Tua Cara, but every track seems to suggest boundless musical possibilities. My one criticism would be the lack of an English translation in the review copy, which makes commenting on the lyrics impossible, although he does appear to be singing “Hello Bob Marley” at one point. But what is the meaning of Cantuaria’s prominently displayed wedding ring on the cover?