:: These reviews were originally published
:: in Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


Ivone com jazz

The first lady of samba collects
a tribute from Leandro Braga.

Daniella Thompson

21 January 2003

Dona Ivone Lara

In 1997, commemorating the 150th anniversary of Chiquinha Gonzaga’s birth, Antonio Adolfo released the CD Chiquinha com Jazz. This wasn’t the pianist’s first tribute to the grande dame of choro, but it was the first to treat her compositions in an unorthodox way.

Universally known as A Maestrina, Chiquinha was a small woman who lived to a ripe old age (1847–1935) and took to wearing men’s clothing in her later years.

Dona Ivone Lara is to samba what Chiquinha Gonzaga is to choro. A large and handsome woman now in her 82nd year, she usually wears elegant lace gowns on stage. In July 2001, while celebrating her 80th birthday with a concert at the Teatro Rival in Rio de Janeiro, Dona Ivone looked fatigued and uncomfortable and sat down shortly after the show had begun. It soon transpired that what was bothering the first lady of samba wasn’t the cold she was suffering but the tightness of her new shoes. As soon as she kicked them off, we in the audience were treated to a deft exhibition of miudinho dancing, followed by a memorably full evening in which she sang a long string of her famous creations, from “Sonho Meu,” “Alguém Me Avisou,” and “Nasci pra Sonhar e Cantar” through “Os Cinco Bailes da História do Rio” and “Mas Quem Disse Que Eu Te Esqueço.”

“Ela foi maravilhosa, e sem fazer nada,” said singer Marcos Sacramento after the concert, meaning that she was marvellous simply by being herself. Honey-voiced and warmly charismatic, the beautiful Dona Ivone smiles, sings, dances, and captivates.

The singing and the dancing are merely the icing on the cake, though—the cake itself being her compositions. Dona Ivone has been composing all her life, although unlike Chiquinha Gonzaga—who began her musical career quite early—she didn’t become a professional musician until after her retirement from a non-musical day job (she had been a social worker). Although women composers as a rule have never been welcome in samba circles, Dona Ivone has managed to amass both universal respect and a glorious body of work.

Leandro Braga

Enter Leandro Braga, one of Brazil’s most sought-after pianists who has recorded a jazzy Chiquinha disc of his own but is better known to MPB fans as Ney Matogrosso’s music director. Braga had been wanting to record Dona Ivone’s work for a long time. “I always found Dona Ivone one of the best composers of this country, so prodigious with unknown talents. Her category, richness, and sophistication allow her to be placed, at the least, by Tom Jobim’s side,” said the pianist, who on another occasion also positioned her on a rung with Pixinguinha and Villa-Lobos.

Above all, Braga treasures the composer’s beautiful melodies and the harmonies implicit in them. Samba recordings traditionally emphasize rhythm. In Primeira Dama, Braga’s arrangements relegate the rhythm to a secondary plane, giving pride of place to the melodies, on which the pianist built an elaborate superstructure of refined harmonies, many with a distinct jazz atmosphere.

Participating in the weaving of Braga’s lustrous fabrics are some of Brazil’s best instrumentalists, including Cláudio Jorge, Marco Pereira, Zé Paulo Becker, and Marcello Gonçalves (acoustic guitar); Pedro Amorim (bandolim); Trio Brasília-Brasil; Paulo Sérgio Santos and Dirceu Leitte (clarinet); Zé Nogueira (soprano sax); Humberto Araújo (tenor sax); Jessé Sadoc (trumpet); Andréa Ernest Dias (flute & piccolo); Silvia Passaroto Braga (harp); Bororó and Jorge Helder (bass); Armando Marçal, Zero, and Oscar Bolão (percussion).

Stripped of their traditional context, Dona Ivone’s creations spread their wings and fly into a new firmament of refinement, recalling the lace of the first lady’s gowns.

Leandro Braga: Primeira Dama—A música de Dona Ivone Lara
(Carioca Discos CD 004; 2002) 60:57 min.
Producer: Paulinho Albuquerque

01. Há Musica no Ar (Ivone Lara/Delcio Carvalho)—singer: Dona Ivone Lara
02. Alguém Me Avisou (Ivone Lara)
03. É Natal (Ivone Lara/Delcio Carvalho)
04. Rainha Quelé (Ivone Lara/Delcio Carvalho)
05. Sonho Meu (Ivone Lara/Delcio Carvalho)
06. Mas Quem Disse Que Eu Te Esqueço (Ivone Lara/Hermínio
      Bello de Carvalho)
07. Amor Sem Esperança (Ivone Lara/Delcio Carvalho)
08. Acreditar (Ivone Lara/Delcio Carvalho)
09. Aprendi a Sofrer (Ivone Lara/Delcio Carvalho)
10. Nos Combates Desta Vida (Ivone Lara/Delcio Carvalho)
11. Pra Afastar a Solidão (Ivone Lara/Delcio Carvalho)
12. Tendência (Ivone Lara/Jorge Aragão)
13. Nasci pra Sonhar e Cantar (Ivone Lara/Delcio Carvalho)
14. Primeira Dama (Leandro Braga)


Copyright © 2003–2014 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.