Considered one of the pioneers of the ukulele in Brazil, João Tostes is a Brazilian musician, composer, arranger and musical educator, in charge of the Toca Ukulele Project, with a well-funded national and international artistic career. Tostes plays the Brazilian ukulele in concerts held all over the world, and has put a handpicked selection of those performances onto his latest album, “Live Ukulele Here, There & Everywhere” , a compilation of cover and original songs performed live, between 2016 and 2019. The 20 songs recorded over 4 years in 8 cities, go from the Beatles, with “Yesterday”, through Leonard Cohen with “Hallelujah”, to the Waldir Azevedo choro, “Brasileirinho” and the world-renowned bossa nova “Girl From Ipanema”. The recordings were made in Brazil, Canada, Italy and South Korea. The album cover was designed by Tostes’ 10-year-old son João Victor.
There is something innately perfect about this recording. The shimmering sounds that João Tostes manages to coax from his ukulele are so sweet and so pure, there are moments that the instrument almost sounds like an eloquent classical harp, and at others like a fiery jazz guitar.
He is able to deliver tonal speed assaults to rival the most innovative world class ukulele players and then cook up timbres that slowly creep into your soul. What João Tostes can do with just the four strings of his ukulele is out of this world. There are influences from the realms of jazz, pop, classical, folk and music deeply rooted in the traditions of his native Brazil. The tunes here are heartfelt, calm, and uplifting all at the same time.
What also makes this a great record are the collaborative players themselves and the chemistry they create during the performances with João Tostes on this album. The interplay and complementary role playing of Diogo Fernandes, Felipe Moreira , Jonas Loi, Vinícius Vivas and Rio Saito, makes for great listening, but considering the individual resumes of the players the resulting recording is not surprising.
Of course, an album such as this will have its niche audience, those with an instrumental nature, but anyone who can appreciate the complexity and diversity within the walls of an instrumental album will certainly embrace what João Tostes has done here with both hands.
What João Tostes has achieved on “Live Ukulele Here, There & Everywhere” is remarkable as he fuses various styles across the recording to keep the listener highly engaged throughout.
As you listen to standouts like “Flor Amorosa” (Live Seoul South Korea 2018), “Asa Branca / O Ovo” (Live Vicenza Italy 2018), “Delicato Ukulele” (Live Seoul South Korea 2018), “Bodysurfing” (Live São Paulo Brazil 2019), “Alivium” (Live Barbacena Brazil 2018), and “Ashes” (Live São Paulo Brazil 2019), you’ll never once question if you are listening to a ukulele as it is transformed to something beyond its four strings. There is something for everyone to lose themselves in this sublime recording.
João Tostes exhibits more control, more passion, and more soul, than most ukulele players I have heard. Tostes never crowds the notes on his songs, and he plays with a soulful purity that preserves the sound of each note as it slides into another. He elicits emotion with his shimmering layers of sound, and he knows how to play just the right phrase to fill the measure.
João Tostes’ genius is that he inhabits his instrument and every measure of his tunes. Tostes is a true musical craftsman at one with his instrument. And that should come as no surprise from someone who dropped a parallel career as an Information Technology entrepreneur in 2017 to fully dedicate himself to music and the ukulele.