Brazilian star Jorge Ben Jor just played a two-night stand at the HotHouse in Chicago the first time he’s ever played here to wildly enthusiastic audiences. I was there for night 2 and thoroughly enjoyed it. His guitar playing is highly rhythmic and slightly funky, his singing has the soft tones of typical Brazilian vocalists without being too mellow, and his songs have superbly catchy melodies and danceable beats.
The crowd sang along with many songs, and when I turned around at point, I saw the people just behind me waving a Brazilian flag over their heads. Appropariately enough, the Jorge Ben Jor song I know best is a tribute to a soccer player, “Ponta de Lanca Africano (Umbabararuma).”
The 1976 song, which I discovered when David Byrne included it as the opening track of the 1989 compilation Beleza Tropical: Brazil Classics 1, has an infectious guitar groove, and Jorge Ben (as he was billed on that CD) delivers some of the verses in a sort of pre-hip-hop patter that I want to chant along with even though I don’t know of a word of the language. The songs shows up occasionally as a bit of segue music on the public radio show “Marketplace.”
Let’s hope Jorge Ben Jor’s back in Chicago soon.