I hesitate to call Ivan Lins a forgotten man--after all, he does rank among the most prolific and popular Brazilian singer-songwriters of the last quarter century. But in the most recent editions of The Rough Guide to World Music and The All Music Guide Lins merits not a mention, and Tower Records lists but three Lins albums in its database. As near as I can tell, Lins's crime consists of having written a steady stream of romantic pop themes at a time when his contemporaries were adding political sentiment to their music (the Brazilian pop movement called tropicalismo, which supplanted bossa nova), then moving in an even more commercial direction. But his melodies have such iconic appeal, with soaring intervals that imaginatively manipulate archetypal Brazilian harmonies, that I find it difficult to condemn him. Even his best-known (and most criticized) songs, "The Island" and the dark, driven "Harlequin," suffer primarily from commercial overkill; beneath the mountain of pop treacle they've accreted lie fine examples of Lins's sophistication and craftsmanship. And while his voice may lack the angelic grace of the great Brazilian singers, he has an earnest, often yearning delivery that easily conveys the bittersweet sweep of his ballads and fires up his street-samba anthems. In recent years, his music has beguiled such jazz musicians as vocalist Mark Murphy and trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who devoted his 1996 The Heart Speaks to Lins tunes--and lest you underestimate that, consider the new respect validation by the jazz world brought to Antonio Carlos Jobim in the 60s. Lins is modern Brazil's answer to Tchaikovsky--a great tunesmith regularly decried for not being something more. Monday, 8 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Christine Bodini.