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World Music Features

Brazilian Girls

By David Rothenberg
Published February 20, 2006

With all this discussion on who Brazilian Girls are not, what about who they are? That’s a tough question. Singer Sabina Sciubba draws most attention. The rest of the band looks completely involved in its assigned role and not much more.

A cigarette haze seeps under the draped rug serving as makeshift door between patio and bar. During summer months patrons can take advantage of the open air to puff long tokes of their favorite herbs, but it’s winter and the doors are sealed shut. Despite stringent laws banning smoke (of any sort) inside New York clubs, East Village hipsters at Nublu are either clueless or rebelling, or both simultaneously, in the way only New York hipsters can. Their defiance is detrimental to character.

          On stage—well, to be more precise, tables cleared out of the way for amps, a keyboard and drum kit—singer Sabina Sciubba seems either defiant or clueless to laws of other sorts, namely physics. The sultry siren slithers in serpentine struts, her sparse, ornate body covered by, well, not much. It’s Sunday night around midnight, a time when most are well-tucked into dreams dreading another Monday morning. Recalling an old adage about cities never sleeping, the hundred or so fans of the Brazilian Girls see no reason not to continue weekend rituals by becoming direly inebriated to the sounds of one of the most innovative outfits around, alongside a few pints to boot.

          Although recently signed to jazz label Verve, which released their self-titled debut on the Forecast imprint as well as five-song Lazy Lovers EP, these Girls (well, three boys and one girl, to be exact) hold a warm place in Nublu’s heart. Accustomed to playing larger venues, as a recent opening stint with Latin-fusion rockers Ozomatli proved, Nublu is where this quartet met, greeted and, as the story goes, made some really good music.

          “We started at Nublu, the one and only,” says Didi Gutman, the thickly-dreaded Argentinean keyboard player. “Ilhan [Ersahin, Nublu’s owner and Doublemoon Records artist] has all these instruments lying around, so it started like, ‘Hey I’m playing Sunday, you don’t have to bring anything’ sort of thing. At some point Jesse [Murphy, bass player] was there, and we played with a couple different drummers. It was about jamming, not about having a band.”

The drummer that stuck was Aaron Johnston, a Kansas City-born rhythm maker. Ironically, no members are Brazilian: Gutman hails from Buenos Aires, Murphy from California and Sciubba from Rome. While she does croon in five languages (German, Italian, French, English and Spanish) none are Portuguese. If you’re looking for traces of bossa nova, samba, forró, lambada or MPB, you won’t find any. The closest association may be Gutman’s tour experience with Bebel Gilberto, who is, in fact, Brazilian. They are a conundrum embedded in a riddle whose only intent is in the groove. This they have found.<