Arthur Verocai's solo album from 1972 is a must have for everyone. It’s on my personal “Five albums that I would like to have with me on a desert island” list. Verocai’s recent performance on March 15, 2009 was his first ever in Los Angeles. To be honest, even for me, a big fan of Verocai’s music, and despite knowing that this might be a once in a lifetime chance to see this man perform, I almost skipped it. I have been disappointed by the past performances put together by Mochilla, a collection of artists and deejays responsible for bringing acts such as Mulatu Ashtake, Azymuth, Tony Allen and other tasty record geek namedrops to Los Angeles over the last few years. The artists are usually paired with Los Angeles based musicians, who are very talented but not always cohesive. The past performances relied on the musicians' ability to improvise rather than their ability to interpret the artist’s compositions. As a fan of the song, I felt that the songs got lost in the solos and improvisation.
However, on this night, everything was perfect. Verocai was backed by an impressive line-up of L.A and Brazilian musicians, including Mamao Conti from Azymuth, Carlos Dafe (a great and underated singer who sang on Verocai 1972 masterpiece) and Airto Moreira, who has played with Miles Davis, Return To Forever and Weather Report. Verocai’s compositions are, to me, part Gil Evans, part Brian Wilson and part Lo Borges. Each composition flowed smoothly, taking on a life beyond the original recordings. The result was an hour and a half of beautifully arranged Brazilian pop that had me wishing Milton Nacimento could get the same treatment the next time he comes to town. Verocai's strength comes not only from his compositions but also from his arrangements. This allowed the audience to witness the brilliance of both his music and the musicians backing him up. This was probably one of my favorite concerts in quite some time. His music was appreciated by fans and newcomers alike.
Check out some of the action. This is part of the Mochilla "Timeless" series that was to end with a performance by composer David Axelrod. That show has since been cancelled. I'm so bummed.