When Joyce Moreno arrived on the Brazilian music scene in the late '60s, she upset a lot of people. A female singer who not only played guitar really well but also composed her own music and wrote lyrics from a distinctly feminine point of view was shocking at the time.
“Remember we were a Catholic country and there was a military dictatorship, so I had some of my tunes censored—because of words like pregnant, for example,” Moreno says from New York. “There were very few female songwriters, and even fewer who led their own band. It's not a whole lot different now. Women singers in Brazil are usually interpreters, so they give the leadership mostly to men.”
Laughing, the singer—who performed under her first name until last year—adds: “But they must know what they're doing because they sell a lot of records—and stay out of trouble.”
Moreno has made some 30 albums since her 1968 debut, Joyce. Her sultry and subtle music is rooted in the bossa nova sounds she heard all around while growing up in Rio de Janeiro.
“When I was a teenager, bossa nova was having its big boom with Joí£o Gilberto, [Antonio Carlos] Jobim, and all those guys. I'm self-taught as a guitarist and perhaps one of the youngest of the second generation of bossa nova players, and I was kind of lonely in my search for my own music because I was very attached to the harmonies and style, but in terms of lyrics I was already going down a feminist path.”
The big break for Moreno came with the 1980 album Feminina. “I became suddenly really famous and liked in Brazil, and my music started to be recorded by other artists,” she says.
Since then Moreno has toured the world, for the past three years fronting a quartet with her husband, Tutty Moreno, on drums; Rodolfo Stroeter on bass; and Helio Alves on piano.
“What I do is very Brazilian, but it's jazz because it's improvised and has a lot of chord changes.”
Moreno has remained a prolific singer and songwriter, and her two latest albums were recorded last year within a month of one another. Aquarius features pianist Joí£o Donato, “in his late 70s but totally kicking”, while Slow Music is a collection of ballads.
“It's an album of bittersweet love songs”¦a mix of standards and my own compositions. It's ”˜slow' as in slow food—music to be savoured rather than just swallowed, thinking that music is food for the soul.”
Joyce Moreno plays the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on Friday (July 2).