By Mark Grabowski
Beleza, Wednesday night regulars at Tokyo Rose, are a walking history lesson. Wednesday is often a stay-at-home evening, when folks reflect on the debauchery of Tuesday night and prepare for the no-holds-barred fiasco that is Charlottesville Thursdays. But Beleza is reason enough to get your creaky ass out of bed.
The Rose's free upstairs performances by such hot groups as jazzy Edamame, indie/country act Holiday Inn, or quirky pop duo B.C. allow one to get a nice, varied sampling of some of Charlottesville's finest. Beleza is another member of the upstairs clique, and after catching them for the first time a couple of weeks ago, I pronounce them one of the best.
Drawing on Samba, Bossa Nova, Flamenco, and Afro-Cuban classics, Beleza sound like no one else. Guitarist Peter Richardson is an expert in Brazilian musical expression. I probably learned more about Bossa Nova and Samba music during our 10-minute conversation than I could from the Britannica.
Both he and frequent percussionist Eric Gertner have studied in Brazil, adding a level of authenticity to what is often wrongly regarded as "elevator music." "Girl From Ipanema" is probably the best-known of the Bossa Nova tunes Beleza performs, but since they concentrate on composers who are masters of the '60s Bossa movement, everyone can pick out at least one or two familiar tunes.
Watching Richardson play his classical guitar is like watching a conductor, if you can imagine the conductor playing an instrument at the same time. Richardson seems to be in total control of the band, all the while showing off some rather impressive guitar chops. Although everything he does is "classically informed," he could probably find work as a lead guitarist in one of the more metal-inclined groups around town.
Percussionists Drex Weaver and Eric Gertner (who was not performing last week), bassist Bob Bowen, the extremely talented Dave Kanensohn on clarinet, Max Katz of Edamame on flute (also not performing), and Catherine Carraway taking up the vocal duties round out the band.
Carraway has a beautiful voice inspiring immediate connections to great singers of the '40s and '50s; she handles Beleza's mostly foreign repertoire with ease.
Beleza is something great, something you don't hear everyday, especially in Charlottesville– but you can hear them every week, upstairs at Tokyo Rose. For $3.50 you can get a beer and watch a fabulous band, and if there's a better deal in town, please let me know about it.
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