Concert Review: Soul Bossa Duo & Black Pearl Ponsonby Social Club, 8 August 2020

The Brazilian rhythms warms up a large Latin audience as the Soul Bossa Duo feature the songs of Black songwriters, mostly Brazilian, at the Ponsonby Social Club.

Juliana Sian is the keyboard player, a graduate of Jazz from the Free University of Music Tom Jobim. Amanda Bovo the singer, studied popular music at the Souza Lima Conservatory and School of Music.

Both are experienced musicians who have been performing as a duo since 2018. They play Brazilian Bossa Nova and cover a wide range of compositions from Jazz standards to Pop and Rock.

Amanda gets a rousing welcome of whistles and cheers as she appears on stage in a stunning tight black dress. In Portuguese and then in English, she tells us that the Black Pearls tonight will be their interpretations of some of their favourite Black Latin artists, with a few outliers thrown in.

Nao Existe Amor, by Milton Nascimento begins the show. Amanda has an excellent soft style of singing, wrapping around the Bossa Nova rhythm laid down by the engine room of bass guitar and drums. A Soul Jazz vocal style matched to the soft Jazz of the keyboards.

Next comes Amor Ate o Fim written by Elis Regina. A faster tempo and the Bossa beat accentuated. Amanda picks up the rhythm and sounds jaunty and spicy with some low vocal tones thrown in.

Penela Negia starts as Lounge music, softer and sensual singing. Then the tempo increases and keyboards and rhythm section swing it.

With the following song, So Marina, Juliana introduces it with a melodic little fill, then everyone comes back in with a fast swinging beat and great Soul Jazz vocals. This has an infectious hip-shaking dance groove. The audience cheer and I wonder how long everyone can remain seated.

Estuela comes from the great Gilberto Gil. He was an eclectic musician whose songs have permeated throughout the West, both American and European. He has ranged from Brazilian Samba to Rock, African and Reggae. Has been an activist and a political force, and was Brazil’s Minister of Culture from 2003. Amanda sings this in a longing, soulful style. The mood is sad and the bass personifies this.

The other Gilberto song tonight is Ladu no da Preguice. A great Latin Samba beat, rhythmic and bouncy.

Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy goes down. The rhythm section starts this one off with Latin Funk. Then Jazz chords on the keys and lighter playful Jazz vocals in keeping with the lyric’s sentiments. A Pop song with a Latin motor.

Ray Charles Hit the Road Jack is a highlight. This starts quite bluesy with a jazz feel much like how Charles interpreted the song. Latin beat flourishes are added, love the drum accents on this. The tempo is slowed and picked up repeatedly.

O Que e o Amor opens with a Funk bass line, then straight Latin Jazz from Juliana. Amanda winds up with her voice sounding like classic Motown Sixties female leads.

Following song Bridge even better. The singer goes all out Seventies Soul, emotional and sensual. Another stand-out tonight.

With De Scotido Dos Mau and the closing number, Latin Disco has entered the mix. But more like the hard dance drive of Chic. Everyone does get up, once we are told to by Amanda. Hips loosen up. Backbone and heart follow. Scat vocals, Disco Jazz from the keyboards, Funk in the bottom.

Great show, great Latin audience. The Soul Bossa Duo have been receiving excellent word-of-mouth from insider musicians, and also hopefully to the wider public.

Rev Orange Peel