Nate Najar and Daniela Soledade Blow Us a Sweet, Soft Kiss From Rio

Guitarist Nate Najar and from left, bassist Tommy Cecil and drummer Eddie Metz (behind Najar), singer Daniela Soledade and saxophonist Jeff Rupert. Photos by Julie Garisto.

August 26, 2019 | By Julie Garisto

The Pinellas-based jazz artists perform a spellbinding set of bossa nova tunes at The Studio@620.

Friday, August 30
7:30 pm
The Studio@620
Details are here

Sometimes we need an escape hatch,  a trip back in time to a more analog, vibrant place. With bossa nova, you can drift into the perfect getaway via the balmy shores of Rio de Janeiro, or at least the way we choose to imagine it. For me, it’s 1960, Carnival season, Ipanema Beach. A lovesick boy who barely fills out his striped, boat-neck shirt secretly snaps photos with his Holiflex camera, but he can’t get the brunette bikini-wearing girl of his dreams in focus.

It’s the type of moment that recurs over and over in the tunes of Tom Jobim and Joao Gilberto, whose stories of infatuation revel in melancholia, an emotional indulgence that Brazilians call saudade. The lyrics may be downright sad sometimes, or triste, as the Portuguese would say with linguistic sashay, but they’re also cathartic and clever. They touch our sensitive spots, like the feeling of emotional validation that misfits have discovered in the doleful lyrics of The Smiths.

But with bossa nova, rhythm is its most intoxicating asset. A mix of jazz and samba, it insinuates under your skin and makes you sway almost against your will.  At the same time, bossa nova’s soft, unaffected vocals and subtle arrangements may as well be the lotus of all music genres.

Najar shares anecdotes with the Palladium audience.

Bossa nova’s spell came over me at the Palladium in April when jazz guitarist Nate Najar collaborated with Rio-born vocalist Daniela Soledade for an intimate show titled “From Rio with Love — Bossa Nova” featuring Tommy Cecil on bass and Eddie Metz Jr. on drums.

The songs will appear on an Soledade’s forthcoming debut album, scheduled for a September release. Judging from our April preview, the Clearwater-based singer’s new recording should be a staple for both bossa nova collectors and fans of local jazz.
Najar and his band played in a variety of configurations, going from a full, lush sound to more intimate, isolated instrumental pieces. They played “Aquarela do Brasil” as a trio number (known in English as “Brazil,” the theme of Terry Gilliam’s classic film by the same name) while Najar and Soledade played “Samba de Uma Nota Só (One Note Samba)” and “I Wish You Love” as duets.
Najar and Soledade perform a stirring duet.

The interplay among the players, a tradition in jazz shows, called to mind the democratic spirit of jazz concerts, which should be studied by all politicians. Najar’s band traded off on solos, showing masterful and precise playing — intense but not heavy-handed. Guitarist Najar leans in and plays high on the neck with intricate fingerwork, resembling the loving, hovering grooming of a parent.

One memorable highlight, both touching and truly special, arrived when the band ended the show’s first half on “Sonho Desfeito,” which Soledade’s  grandfather, Paulo Soledade, wrote with Jobim. Paulo, known for co-writing gems like “Zum Zum,” formed a club of bohemians in Rio and became a show promoter. How fortunate we are in Tampa Bay to experience his greatness via his own granddaughter.

The show’s second half opened with the famous jazz standard “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” played in a samba tempo, featuring Jeff Rupert on tenor sax.

Then Daniela came back out and they performed “Desafinado,” my favorite, from the 1962 Charlie Byrd/Stan Getz record “Jazz Samba,” which won a Grammy and introduced Bossa nova to North America, Najar tells me. Najar also schooled us on “Flor de Lis,” a tune by the Brazilian icon Djavan.

Najar’s setlist for the April 18, 2019, concert at the Palladium.

Daniela’s single “So Nice (Summer Samba)” held up with the classics. She and the band also performed the winsome Marcos Valle tune “Safely In Your Arms,” which will appear on Soledade’s album.

One epic moment hushed the audience with Najar’s solo on “Poema Dos Olhos da Amada,” a gorgeous tune written by Paulo Soledade and the great poet Vinicius de Moraes. The show closed with Jobim’s “Agua de Beber” and the classic “Garota de Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema)” as an encore.

Ever versatile, Najar made his way to Brazil’s bossa nova by way of his admiration of Charlie Byrd (1925-1999), one of America’s most prominent contributors to the genre.

Indeed, if you love something the way Najar loves playing music, the right connections have a way of being sparked at precisely the right moment. “I met Daniela through my good friend Phill Fest, the wonderful South Florida-Brazilian guitarist,” Najar shared via email. “He introduced us, and when I heard how good she was and how much she knew about this music, I really wanted to work with her, so I decided to produce an album for her.”

According to the guitarist, the band will be booked through December. “Daniela’s album comes out September 6,” Najar added, “and we’re doing a an album release concert at The Studio@620 on August 30. My birthday is August 28, Bob Devin Jones of The Studio@620 is August 29, and Daniela is September 3, so we’re celebrating birthdays and playing bossa nova!”

“It’s really easy to play concerts with this material,” he told WUSF’s Tom Cornette in their recent radio interview (if you haven’t heard it, it’s worth a listen).

Find out more at

This review of an April performance at The Palladium
Theatre is reprinted from April 26, 2019. 


Leave a Reply

Become a Creative Pinellas Supporter