At 11:45 Friday there was almost no one on the New Haven Green. That changed in 15 minutes as the members of the Bossa Nova Project took the Green’s mainstage, starting off the second-to-last day of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas.
“Feel free to dance. Feel free to sing. Feel free to have fun with us today,” pianist and singer Isabella Mendes said with a wide smile. Without further ado the band launched into a light, fleet groove, piano and guitar and bass weaving in and out from one another while Mendes’s vocals and lines from the flute floated over the top.
As guitarist Joe Carter took a lyrical solo, the people who had already parked themselves on the Green bobbed their heads and smiled. Meanwhile, people who were just walking by decided to linger.
Cafe Nine celebrated the start of summer with an evening of rebirths, as Virginian cellist and composer Wes Swing returned for his second performance this year flush with new music, a novel appreciation for synthesizers, and an album fizzing with a message of revival.
Leaning on the piano in front of the altar of the Church of the Redeemer, Mae Gibson Brown leaned on the piano and guided a collection of gospel singers in singing — and making a bedrock New Haven festival — “Better.”
“The Tenement Sweep,” from the Foresters’ latest album House Stories, starts with three muted strums from the electric guitar. They’re the countoff, the metronome, for a swinging waltz between guitar and piano. One musical later, and the rest of the band has crashed the party with drums and bass.
But then, another figure later, and the sound changes again, as singer Evan Nork’s first line slides in on a slippery line from a keyboard. Suddenly the chords have gotten a bit more complicated, too; its harmonic structure rolls out measure after measure before landing on a massive hook. It’s a song that puts the smarter side of rock music from the past several decades — think the Beatles onward — puts it all in a blender, then mixes thoroughly. And comes up with something fresh.
There was no particular sign that the New York City-based Fulaso was going to be a party band when it took the stage at the International Festival of Arts and Idea’s first big show on the Green Saturday evening.
The trombone player blew a few notes into his microphone. The band members took their positions. Someone counted off. “One, two.” And boom: instant groove.
“Now I like salsa, and I like the mambo too,” singer Erica Ramos crooned. “but nothing gives me that fever like doing the bugaloo.”