There's no better place than New York in summer to celebrate Brazilian music and culture (especially since, in Brazil, it's currently winter). This year's second annual Brasil Summerfest (www.brasilsummer fest.com) kicked off last week with a relaxed yet buoyant concert in Central Park. Couples cuddled on blankets and sipped on wine from City Winery while taking in Brazilian artists like Flavio Renegado, whose cover of old-school Brazilian crooner Roberto Carlos had the crowd singing along, and Criolo, whose jazz, soul and samba-infused hip-hop resists any umbrella classification.
After a set in which he apologized profusely for his lack of English skills, Criolo was emotional about performing to a New York crowd. "Without the people to come and see us, there would be no stage. I owe it to those who listen to my music and I am grateful," he said, wiping his brow with a towel from his favorite Brazilian soccer club, Corinthians.
Taking the stage after Criolo was the quintessential New York-Brazilian transplant Bebel Gilberto, who hails from a family of Brazilian music royalty: Her father is also the father of bossa nova, Joao Gilberto, and her uncle is the prominent Brazilian singer songwriter Chico Buarque. As the sun crept below the tree line of Central Park's Summerstage, Gilberto had the 6,000-plus capacity crowd raising its hands in the air with her generous voice and enchanting stage presence.
Brasil Summerfest continues through Saturday with the gently playful songs of 19-year-old Mallu Magalhaes tonight and the trumpeting vocals and effortlessly kinetic performance of Liliana Araujo on Saturday, among others.
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As Brasil Summerfest wanes, the summer and early fall have a variety of offerings for those interested in prolonging their Brazilian bacchanal. On Sunday, the Luiz Simas quintet will perform at midtown dinner club Birdland (www.birdlandjazz.com) with a group of seasoned Brazilian jazz artists -- including Adriano Santos on drums, Gustavo Amarante on bass, Joe Deninzon on violin and Paul Lieberman on both sax and flute.
Wednesdays at Nublu (www.nublu.net) on the Lower East Side have always belonged to the one-two steps of the Brazilian dance of forro. Forro recently grabbed the spotlight with a show honoring artist Luiz Gonzaga at Lincoln Center in July, but for those wishing to dance closer than close, Nublu beckons all would-be forro dancers with a blue light above the door and fast moving feet inside each Wednesday this summer.
Big party in Little Brazil
The big finale of New York’s Brazilian summer is on Sept. 2, when Brazilian Day takes over Sixth Avenue in Midtown in the area dubbed Little Brazil. More than a million people are expected to turn out in patriotic yellow and green to catch the sounds of pop crooner Latino and the Brazilian country sounds of duo Jorge and Mateus. Along with traditional street fare, Brazilian food like the fried bean cake acaraje is served, often by women dressed in layers of white eyelet cotton and turbans that are traditional to the Northeastern region of Brazil, while limbs fly as capoeira practitioners perform the country’s meld of a dance and martial art. If all this Brazilian summer sounds exhausting, it just might be — in the best possible way.