Like the warm breeze wafting off a calm Caribbean sea, Judge Bill Gibron thoroughly enjoyed this 2005 concert appearance by the brilliant Brazilian actor/artist.
You may recognize him from films like City of God and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. As a matter of fact, his appearance in that Wes Anderson wonder as a Portuguese crewman with a penchant for David Bowie songs is one of the movie's more memorable quirks, but Seu Jorge is more than a gimmick. Born in the slums, or favelas, of his native Brazil, the young Jorge Mario da Silva spent his youth hoping for a way out of the poverty and crime that infested his surroundings. When his brother was killed by Rio police, Jorge headed out to seek his fortune in music. He taught himself guitar and was hired by Tuerj, a theatrical troupe under the directorship of the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro. The rest is your typical story of adversity overcome and talent rising to the top. He joined up with Brazilian pop act Farofa Carioca and helped lead the revival of salsa as a viable commercial form. Working with Beastie Boys collaborator Mario Caldato, Jorge added the "Seu" to his name (it's a slang form of "Mister") and released his critically acclaimed solo album Carolina/Samba Esporte Fino. The records' popularity led to the role of Knockout Ned in City of God and, from there, his work with Anderson.
Riding high on the success of his second album, Cru, and his work in Aquatic, Jorge took to the road. This 2005 stop off at the Montreaux Jazz Festival was one of the highlights of that tour. In a mere 57 minutes, Jorge and his amazing band of (mostly) percussionists waltz through a lilting set loaded with the rhythm of life. While his dark, dour looks would indicate someone serious and, perhaps, a little angry, Jorge is exactly the opposite on stage. While his performing is intense (he has an amazing voice, and his guitar playing is splendidly slick), his message is aimed at peace and prosperity. He's joyful, blessing the crowd and commenting on the amount of fun he is having at any given moment. With most of the music consisting of sing-alongs, slinky jams, and South American sass, we find ourselves moving along with the smitten Montreaux audience. The set list offered is as follows:
• "Mania de Peitão"—from the 2005 album
Since he was out promoting Cru, it's no surprise that he features several songs here. All are excellent, as are the previously unreleased tracks he treats us to near the end. While it would have been nice to hear a Bowie cover as part of the encore, the percussion solo that finishes the show is really special. Here, members of Jorge's troop argue for their place as part of his sonic genius. Indeed, they are the glue that holds the rest of the music together. While Jorge's name is front and center, this concert is an obvious example of the true band dynamic. Of note is Ricardo Feijao's jazzy, angular bass. You usually expect a more fluid, floating sound from your Latino undercurrent, but Feijao really improvises around the melody, making his instrument an excellent counterpoint to the clockwork poly-beats driving the tune. Yet it's Jorge who's the star here—and the camera never lets us forget it. While other members of the group get their screen time, our frontman is always featured, extreme close-up on his hands as they pick out a part, framing finding his face in pure auditory bliss. It's not that hard to see how Jorge became an actor. His features are expressive without being obvious, the rapture in a song easily illustrated without forced audience interaction. Even the clap and sing-along aspects of the show seem natural. Indeed, the best thing one can say about Seu Jorge Live in Montreaux 2005 is that it feels less like a concert and more like a casual musical meeting. One gets the distinct impression of hanging out at Jorge's pad as the artist and his pals get together and jam.
Eagle Rock Entertainments release of this show (in conjunction with their ongoing Live at Montreaux series) is exceptional. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image is wonderfully crisp and colorful. We get lots of amazing details, like the indentations on the rhythm section's drums, and the overall presentation has a "you are there" kind of feel. Nowhere is this truer than on the sonic side of the DVD. While both the Stereo PCM and Dolby Digital 5.1 are excellent, it's the delicious DTS track that wins the day. Recreating the concert ambiance with perfect separation among the instruments and a healthy dose of spatial relativity, this is the closest one can come to hearing Seu Jorge live sans seeing him perform on stage. While the only extra is a nice insert with some exceptional liner notes, this is a terrific title, technically speaking.
With seemingly endless opportunities both in music and movies, it will be interesting to see where Seu Jorge turns up next. If you enjoyed his presence in City of God or The Life Aquatic, this must-see musical experience will definitely broaden your appreciation of the actor/artist. If it's his songs and sound that move you, there's no reason not to revisit his muse in all its dynamic, digital glory. Seu Jorge Live at Montreaux 2005 is a fascinating way to experience an equally compelling performer. It's truly a celebration of one man's desire to rise above. Thank God he succeeded.
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