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Leny Andrade links stories and styles

June 06, 2007|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Leny Andrade is a compact bundle of musical dynamite. Not that it was immediately apparent when she strolled calmly on stage Monday at the Jazz Bakery, a tiny, sweet-looking figure, reminiscent of a favorite great aunt. But when Andrade began to sing and -- even more so -- when she began to improvise, all the reasons she has been one of Brazil's prime jazz vocalists for nearly half a century became immediately apparent.

Opening her set with two Antonio Carlos Jobim classics, "Wave" and "Triste," she immediately established the links among jazz, samba and bossa nova that are at the heart of her style. Like her obvious models -- Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan -- Andrade combined exquisite storytelling with a driving sense of swing. When she moved into improvisational scat singing, she ripped off one chorus after another of lines delivered with the fluid mobility of an inspired tenor saxophonist.

Andrade, 64, was equally impressive with the lyrical sweetness of "Dindi." Her rendering of "Samba de Uma Nota So" ("One Note Samba") single-handedly extracted it from the lounge environment it has inhabited in recent years and returned it to its vibrant Brazilian jazz roots.

She did all this despite some acoustically distracting accompaniment from pianist Stephanie Ozer's Quintet. Although its playing was well-intentioned -- including some fine flute and soprano saxophone work from Mary Fettig -- the group had difficulties dealing with the Bakery's tricky acoustic environment. And bassist Scott Thompson's tendency to fill every bit of open space with long, intrusive tones made it almost impossible for the rhythm to achieve the brisk, high-spirited airiness so vital to the music.

Veteran that Andrade is, however, she quickly switched into high gear. By the end of the set, she had taken the lead, bringing everything to life, urging the quintet into her own dynamically propulsive rhythmic orbit.


Leny Andrade

Where: The Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave., Culver City

When: 8 and 9:30 tonight

Price: $30

Contact: (310) 271-9039

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