Review: Monica Vasconcelos Hih

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If you’ve ever seen a film with a jazz scene in a nightclub or bar filled with blue cigarette smoke in New York or some other American city then it is possible when someone mentions jazz that is what you picture.

Well, it is in my case anyway.

For me, that is one of the reasons I like it so much. It’s a bit like escapism.

A lot of people say jazz is boring or a bit pretentious - and I can see why - but when you are listening to the good stuff it really seems like you are in a different place or time.

And it is no mean feat to make a man sitting in a theatre in Nottingham’s Hyson Green feel like he is really in a Latin American speakeasy.

But jazz vocalist Monica Vasconselos just about managed it during her recent appearance at the New Art Exchange.

The petit Brazilian, along with three-piece band Hih, played a mixed-tempo set made up of traditional songs from the North-East of Brazil and their own more North American-style compositions.

Vasconcelos’ band are first-class musicians and play really good musical jazz breaks with knee-slapping percussion.

The vocalist played a mean triangle and shakers while singing in that sweet Portuguese accent and in between songs she told some good stories and really connected with the audience.

I think the only problem was the venue - people seemed a little constrained by the fixed-bench theatre-style seating and you couldn’t help thinking they might have had a bit more fun if they could just move around a bit more and relax instead of being sat rigidly upright like in a church.

You got the impression Vasconcelos and her band would really come into their own set up in the corner of a pub or bar where the audience could just relax and let the music wash over them.

But maybe that’s just me.

The gig was organised by not-for-profit enthusiasts Jazzsteps, whose regular venue is at Arnold’s Bonington Theatre.

For more information about Jazzsteps upcoming gigs visit www.jazzsteps.co.uk.