Leny Andrade and Roni Ben-Hur quietly mezmerized the audience at Rockwood Music Hall on Thursday, June 19. Andrade has been called “The Ella Fitzgerald of Brazil”, a title which she has definitely earned. Her husky voice is surprising at first and occasionally steps into vocal fry, but the ear quickly warms to her manner and expression.
Born in Tunisia and growing up in Israel, Roni Ben-Hur has found inspiration in classical Spanish repertoire echoing his Sephardic roots. As his career continued, he found Brazilian music, particularly that of Baden Powell. Powell's music was represented in their performance of "Refem da Solidão", which he wrote with Paulo Cesar Pinheiro. His guitar was the perfect compliment to Andrade's voice; warm, expressive and authentic.
Andrade took the lead at the show, announcing the numbers and showing a sense of humor encompassing both herself and the audience. Her voice completely mesmerized, and at 71, so did her vivacious charm. “É Preciso Perdoar”, translated roughly by Andrade as “Is Necessary to Forgive” began with a warm opening by Ben-Hur. As the song progressed, they made music as one. It is hard not to be drawn in by the underlying sense of gentleness in their music. Toward the end of the show, they played a lovely arrangement of "Cantador", a departure from the jazz repertoire that was a gorgeous and haunting high point to the show.
Besides their outstanding talents as musicians, Andrade and Ben-Hur also have their own students. Out in force at this show, the students created a lively atmosphere that was, nonetheless somewhat distracting, as moments were exchanged between the performers and their students. As touching as it was to see how well-appreciated they were, it was somewhat distracting from the show. Andrade did do a good job of balancing that out, though, keeping her humor and commenting on her partner's favorite, Baden Powell. “Baden Powell only did compositions to kill singers!”
Andrade and Ben-Hur are two musicians of outstanding musical talent. Their subtle affect and gentle humor create a show that draws the audience into the world they create. But mere words cannot describe their lovely sound. To hear Andrade's music, see her her albums on Amazon. Roni Ben-Hur will be performing at Kitano July 11 and 12.