“From the slums of Gogó da Ema in Rio de Janeiro’s Baixada Fluminense to ringing applause on stages across Europe and the United States, Seu Jorge is a reflection of Brazil.”
“Unlike many English and American singing actors Jorge is the real deal.”
- BBC Awards for World Music in 2006
Brazilian singer-songwriter/actor Seu Jorge became an international star after his performanceas Knockout Ned in the Oscar-nominated City of God andhis work in the Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou in 2004. In the latter, heplayed a sailor who sangsolo acoustic versions of David Bowie classics in Portuguese, which caused Bowie to say: “Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs acoustically in Portuguese I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with.”
Of course there has been a wealth of Seu Jorge original compositions as well. A kid from the favelas who taught himself to play guitar and several other instruments, Jorge is a singular talent of rare quality. His warm husky baritone is instantly recognizable but nonetheless flexible enough for samba, reggae, pop, electronic and other influences that find their way into his music.
After fronting the pop-samba band Farofa Carioca in the late-‘90s, his solo albumsreveal a restless inquisitiveness. While2001’sSamba Esporte Finois classic-sounding Brazilian pop (MPB),and hiscritically acclaimed 2004 breakthroughCru (which means “Raw”) isa stripped-down effort that blended intimate singer-songwriter tunes with electronics.His most recent is the modern Brazilian pop (MPB) ofMúsicasparaChurrasco, whichappeared in 2011.The idea here is that the music is for having fun, hanging in the backyard grilling some food and kicking a ball around.
His eclectic interests in music also can also be found a wide range of cover songs – beside Bowie he’s also done imaginative interpretations of Leiber and Stoller’s “Don’t” (recorded by Elvis Presley), Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” Serge Gainsbourg’s “Chatterton,” Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” as well as other Brazilian artists like Jorge Ben’s “Errare Humano Est” and Tim Maia’s “Cristina.”
Along the way there have also been countless collaborations with some of the finest musicians of today including Beck, TalibKweli, Jack Johnson, Damien Rice and Thievery Corporation as well as BraziliansSergio Mendes, Bebel Gilberto, Marisa Monte, Badi Assad and Ana Carolina, with whom he recorded a classic live album with in 2005.He’s also worked with members of the legendary Nação Zumbi on a project called Almaz, which was released as the albumSeu Jorge and Almaz in 2010.
Performing solo acoustic guitar in a hip club or frontinghis 15-piece band at festivals like Bonnaroo or Montreal Jazz Fest, Jorge has a rare connection to his audience wherehis concerts can turn into sing-along and/or dance parties, as YouTube live clips, MTV’s Live Concert filmed in 2004 and the 2009 live CD/DVDAmerica Brasil ao Vivo prove. At a Seu Jorge show, audiences not only know the chorus but also the verses as their feet move in time.
Now one of Brazil’s most popular musical exports is poised for the next chapter of this colorful and multifaceted career -- he is finishing up the second volume ofMúsicas para Churrasco, which will be released in late 2014 or early 2015.
Also on the horizon is a new soul-jazz album with strings for 2015. Both new albums feature producer MarioC (nee Caldato)(Beastie Boys, Beck) at the controls.
“He really is a lover of all styles of music,”Caldato points out.“This new jazz one is about making a record in a more sophisticated ‘70s Blue Note or CTI style with strings and horns. It feels just right for him and is probably the most creative thing he’s done because we went into the studio with no expectations -- the jams came out in that style naturally. There’s half originals and half covers where we’d take samba songs and adapt them in the soul-jazz style.”
The details are still being worked out, but there will be several guest singers joining Seu Jorge for this yet-to-named album, including Maria Rita, Zap Mama’s Marie Daulne and some othernotable America singers. He willalso performnine shows with a trio (November 10-19, 2014) at the legendary Blue Note jazz club in New York City. Another high profile show will behis headline performance at the 2015 Sydney Festival in January. Past performers have included Brian Wilson, Bjork, Elvis Costello, Lou Reed and Emmylou Harris. 60,000 people are expected to attend.
With two (orperhaps three?) albums coming out in the near future and high profile appearances abroad, it’s safe to say that Seu Jorge will once again be at the forefront of the global cultural conversation, making 2015 another banner year for him.