CVNC.org Review by Perry Tannenbaum — Charlotte NC February 13, 2020 – From the schedule at his website, you get the idea that Brazilian-born singer/guitarist/composer Duda Lucena and his quartet record only rarely and play most of their gigs in two posh spots in Charleston, SC, his adopted hometown. Listening to the Duda Lucena Quartet at the Stage Door Theater earlier this week, the latest installment in the Jazz Room’s Premiere Thursdays series, I had to think that a lot folks are missing out. The 80-minute “Music of Brazil” set included a wide assortment of Braziliana by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Caetano Veloso, Djavan, and Lucena himself – and it could be accurately judged by the title of the Quartet’s one non-Brazilian excursion, the Gershwin Brothers’ “‘S Wonderful.”
Lucena’s voice certainly brought back memories of João Gilberto, the vocalist who teamed with saxophonist Stan Getz back in the ’60s to launch the bossa nova boom in the US with the music of Jobim; and memories of the later Renato Braz, who has headlined on multiple occasions in Charleston at Spoleto Festival USA. However, with a gifted rhythm section at his command Lucena wasn’t always tethered to the dreamy, “Quiet Nights” concept of Brazil’s intoxicating rhythms. Not only would bassist Kevin Hamilton draw plenty of solo space, but so also would drummer Ron Wiltrout. At the piano, Gerald Gregory didn’t simply demonstrate his fluency with the tangy single-note stylings of Jobim and Count Basie, he occasionally showed us that he had absorbed the denser textures of Chick Corea and McCoy Tyner. No less surprising, the Lucena Quartet was emboldened to accelerate beyond quiet-city-streets speed limits on up tempo tunes.