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Caetano Veloso: Fina Estampa: En Vivo

Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso is a master of mood, of poetry, of music, of all he surveys. In the instance of this brilliant concert, Veloso takes in the huge mural (1940) by the Mexican artist Diego Rivera-named for and celebrating Pan American unity-that dominates the theater stage of the City College of San Francisco. Performing with this plaster panorama of 100 browns as his backdrop-this grand dance of harmony and brotherhood, undulating on the back of an Aztec plumed serpent, voyaging from Africa to the Andes to the Caribbean, joining hands of Indian and Spaniard-Veloso takes his inspiration, and gives it back a hundredfold.

A musician who easily crosses linguistic and cultural lines, Veloso with Fina Estampa here stands as a cohesive force in Latin American music. (Gilberto Gil is another: Veloso sings his “Soy Loco Por Ti, America” and co-authors with him the exquisitely seductive “Haiti.”) Veloso sings half his set in Spanish, drawing classics from Mexico, Spain, Argentina, such as his heady cooing of “Cucurrucucu Paloma.” After the pouncing panther of “Haiti,” the Brazilian ‘set’ of four pieces is gentle and low-key, with “Cancao de Amor” and “Suas Maos” both caressed with his silken voice and solo guitar, a romantic waltz with strings (“Labios que Beijei”) and an airy Jobim bossa nova with reeds (“Voce Esteve Com Meu Bem?”)

Fina Estampa is composed of a dozen strings, piano, classical guitar (stage right), percussionists, pizzicato bass and woodwind players (stage left). Veloso’s audience-composed, of course, of latinamericanos and brasilhieros and norteamericanos-is transported, buoyed, as in Rivera’s mural, across oceans of time and hope.

Originally Published