$15 music charge, $10 minimum, call 203 792 1500 for reservations
Isabella Mendes, vocals & piano Joe Carter, guitar
Jeff Fuller, bass Ben Billelo, drums
“… sveltely swinging Brazilian jazz … bosses of bossa nova …”
Owen McNally, Hartford Courant
Sambeleza derives its name from two words: samba, the national dance of Brasil, and beleza, Portuguese for 'beauty.' The Connecticut group lives up to it's name. They create gorgeous tapestries of guitars, percussion, and vocals in both Portuguese and English, weaving the rhythms and melodies of bossa nova and samba with exciting jazz improvisation. Sao Paulo-native Isabella Mendes has a crystal-clear singing voice that recalls the sound of Astrud Gilberto. Brazilian guitar specialist Joe Carter and jazz bassist Jeff Fuller are two of the best in the region, and for this concert are joined by the talented Ben Bilello on drums.
The group is celebrating the release of their first CD, Sambeleza Live! The album was recorded last year on the summer solstice by WPKN 89.5FM, and features guest artists Ali Ryerson on flute, Adriano Santoson drums and Zé Mauricio on percussion.
In California, a legendary jazz club, The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco, has been around since 1964.
"They have Sunday concerts,'' said Michael Lauretano, owner of Pizzeria Lauretano on Greenwood Avenue in Bethel. "The performers who played San Francisco on the weekends would go there to play Sundays.''
That is why, in part, Sundays at Pizzeria Lauretano are generally booked solid as its jazz concerts fill the room nearly every week.
"It's part of our identity,'' said Lauretano, who loves the music he brings to his restaurant. "It's part of our value.''
"It enriches the legacy of the music,'' said master vibraphonist Arthur Lipner, of Wilton, who ended a two-week European concert tour by jetting back to Connecticut and playing two enthralling sets Sunday at the pizzeria with his quartet. "And it enriches our community.''
Lauretano said saxophonist Michael Leventhal, of Redding, pushed him to start featuring live music four or five years ago. Leventhal came in to eat one day, heard the recorded jazz Lauretano was playing for customers and urged him to start having live concerts. The Sunday concert series was born.
"It started very organically,'' said Judith Joiner, who handles the restaurant's publicity. "At first, it was 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. It was an occasional concert, and it was free. Then we started having music every Sunday. We gradually added a cover charge. Now, you have to call ahead for reservations every week.''
Lauretano said Leventhal and other musicians have helped him book excellent jazz artists who live in the area. By now, he said, he has a regular rotation of repeat performers. "They all want to come back,'' he said.