Iconoclassy

Few people actually deserve the sobriquet "living legend," but Brazil's Caetano Veloso more than lives up to the cliché. One of the founders of the tropicalia movement, a consistently impressive singer/songwriter, a poet, memoirist and filmmaker — Veloso is the iconoclast who became an icon.

This live album, recorded in Rio de Janeiro last year, is branded by the Gil Evans-influenced arrangements of Veloso's longtime collaborator, cellist Jacques Morelenbaum. The Evans lucidity is particularly apparent on Morelenbaum's glorious reworking of Veloso's 20-year-old masterpiece, "Terra" (RealAudio excerpt).

Although he's been singing for almost four decades, Veloso sounds richer and warmer than ever, as though his voice had been aged in wood. Its thrilling intimacy is perfectly displayed on a cover of fellow tropicalista Gilberto Gil's "Drão" (RealAudio excerpt), which is accompanied only by Veloso's graceful guitar. After an intimate interlude, the band returns, lacing polyrhythms of percussion into the sweet samba "A Luz de Tieta" (RealAudio excerpt) and in the process, offering a history lesson in popular Brazilian music.