Friday, June 15, 2007


I am an admitted slave to Divas, though not (necessarily) the operatic kind. Ever since I saw Odetta (yes, Odetta) at the Earl of Old Town in 1966, then in relatively quick succession Grace Slick, Joan Baez, Michelle Phillips, Janis Joplin, Nico, and Joni Mitchell, I have been enamored of the commanding woman with the voice of angels, or demons Patti Smith and her clarinet), onstage.


Gal Costa’s newest CD, her 36th if I’m not mistaken, Hoje reveals a woman at the peak of her talent, a woman who has been, and will hopefully remain a force in Brazilian Music. Born in Salvador, September 26 1945 as Maria da Gra├ža Costa Penna Burgos, Gal turned 62 this year, yet the songs on this CD still possess the seduction, the rhythmic edge (largely thanks to three outstanding percussionists: Daniel de Paula, Marcio Forte, and Cesar Camargo Mariano), and the powerful vocal ease and control she has always shown. The band follows her like satin clinging to a body, and at times gently leads, particularly keyboardist Cesar Camargo Mariano, who is a Brazilian musical archetype, once upon a time playing piano and producing Jobim’s historic album with Elis Regina, Elis e Tom. From her hippy roots, and after the political exile of her two favorite composers Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, Gal was faulted for becoming stodgy and traditional in her choice of music, to which she blamed lack of good material. Critics responded that she was ignoring a raft of new and emerging songwriters. Hoje (issued also as Gal Costa Today) is her answer, though hopefully not her final one. Check it out.

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