Concert Review: Henrique Morales – Ponsonby Social Club June 27, 2020

Ponsonby Social Club continues to come in hot week after week with stellar performances from NZ jazz legends. On Saturday night it was the Henrique Morales Quartet featuring Michal Martyniuk on keyboard, Brazilian Bass player Gustavo Ferreira & Jono Sawyer on drums.

During Level 3, Michal, Gustavo & Henrique decided to extend their bubbles to each other so that they could do many hours of playing together which has culminated in a Facebook live broadcast, eventually bringing Jono Sawyer into the fold to bring us this incredible evening of Brazilian music .

The band kicked things off with João Bosco’s Coisa Feita. As the lyricist of the song Aldir Blanc has just recently passed away due to complications with COVID 19, this piece was a fitting homage to a notable Brazilian poet & songwriter. Starting with an instrumental, the players came in strong with a multi-rhythmic groove before settling into Morales’ vocals. His voice has that quintessential Latin flavour with warm and inviting tones in the bottom and mid-range, and a ping which cuts through at the top.

A Brazilian folklore setting of Prenda Minha was next, still groovy but more laid back, allowing each player to stretch out a bit with some improv, notably Ferreira on Bass.

Fernando Corona’s tune Eu Faço Samba melted the room into a smoother vibe, and really showed the breadth of Morales’ talents on vocals, guitar and scat.

Brazilian Guitarist Toninho Horta’s song Aquelas coisas todas  gave Sawyer a chance to explore the percussive textures of the evening a bit more. The brushes on the snare came through crystal clear in the sound mix, somewhat of a rarity in any live setting.

Another Bosco number, Mata Minha Sede. Smooth, creamy. Azymuth’s Partido Alto, groovy, slightly unsettling and experimental in a great way. O Vento da paixão a beautiful ballad, intimate. Forever Lover & Friend started almost horizontally relaxed until Morales ramped things up on guitar, sprinkling touches of vocoder harmonies with his singing to finish.

Into Brazil pop land we went with Seu Jorge’s Mangueira. Think Bruno Mars in a lounge bar singing in Portuguese with a jazz backline. Very cool. Another Bosco & Blanc collaboration, Incompatibilidade de gênios gave Martyniuk yet another chance to get busy with a lovely mix of South American musical tropes and chromatic jazz. Another solo for Morales, trading fours for Sawyer, and a big finish to the piece. Alô Brazil the calm before the final musical storm Cravo e Canela, which translates as Clove & Cinnamon. A great party piece to finish with a sort of Caribbean sounding hook fused with Latin jazz.

Interviewing Henrique after the performance, it became quickly apparent just how knowledgeable he was in the rich history of Brazilian music. That he is a part of this community, that he knows these musicians he celebrates. And his humility as an entertainer, genuine gratitude to his audience, backed up with phenomenal talent and polish.

Talking to Jono & Gustavo after the gig, it was so lovely to see the camaraderie between the bassist and drummer. They described how locking those fundamental elements of the samba allowed for Morales and Martyniuk to paint music on top. Gustavo praised Jono for his ability to create a whole latin percussion section texture out of a drum kit.

Martyniuk is an excellent match for Morales with a virtuosic and fiery approach to improvisation, busy yet super tasty.

But what was best about all of the players was the mix of jazz and Latin chops fused with a down to earth groove that kept the sound connecting with the audience throughout the gig. It was difficult not to dance with the rhythms pumping, but it is clear that the audiences continue to enjoy this cabaret style that Brazuka has cultivated at Ponsonby Social Club.

A shame to be losing Michal back to Poland next week, be sure to come along to his final gig at P.S.C this coming Saturday 4th July before he leaves.

~Josh Clark