It was a classic night of quiet nights and quiet stars, as Vinicius Cantuaria and Bill Frisell presented quiet chords on their guitars at the acoustically cozy Skirball Center. They’ve put out a few collaborative releases together, their latest being the seductive Lagrimas Mexicanas, and this 90 minute set emphasized moods and sounds from that recording as well as other Latin and Brazilian tunes that created an evening where you were transported from the upscale Bel-Air to a late night café in Brazil.
Frisell, who’s taken his six-stringed sonic experimentation and gaggle of foot pedals through musical genres ranging from folk to country to Beatles, was a perfect accompaniment to the Brazilian singer/strummer. Picking notes with his fingers, and tapping buttons with his feet to suit the song and atmosphere, he formed a piercing gaze on Cantuaria, and followed his lead as he used his subtle guitar licks and electronic loops to serve as the perfect partner, catalyst and foil. On pieces like “Lagrimas de Amore” and “Calle 7” the mix of Cantuaria’s agonizing voice and passionate rhythms were symbiotically enhanced by Frisell’s accents and coaxings. Canturaria, for his part used his hushed and soto voice to perfection on a haunting “Agua Mulher” and a sensuous “Lagrimas Mexicanas” that exuded passion and power like a light night table dance in a smoky dive. As with all things Brazilian, Jobim and the samba are never far away, and a graceful “Meditation” gave way to a closing and heartfelt “Corcovado” that was as fragile and understatedly passionate that it showed that when it comes to the most delicate of topics, you always get more attention when you whisper.