World music finds a voice downtown


A phrase meaning “new wave” or “the new thing” in Portuguese, bossa nova is known around the world, but has received little notoriety in Jacksonville. Bossa nova is a jazzy type of music that sprung out of Brazil in the 1950s. The Sinclair hosted a swanky night of the samba-esque tunes Sept. 12 featuring Jacksonville musicians Chris Spohn and Chris Philips, Erzulie and Mandy Joy.

Opening act Erzulie was a mixture of wispy synth, driving mid-ranged melodies and singer Chris Bartus’s baritone crooning. Bartus’s girlfriend, Rebecca Rose, plays keyboards, but on the night of the moonlit Sinclair affair, Bartus was

Chachie without his Joanie; regrettably Rebecca had to stay home sick.

The two only began performing together recently. Rose and Bartus played at a house party they hosted and Spohn talked the duo into playing around town more, Bartus said.

With a recording of Erzulie’s music and a microphone, Bartus performed in a passion that’s tough to conjure in conjunction with a tape, a quick but emotive set.

Spohn and Phillips capped the evening with the first and only bossa nova ditties of the night. Phillips nimbly comped mellow, hand-plucked chords while Spohn explored melodies that rounded out the shifting harmonies. Cool Tropicália rhythms kept Sinclair’s patrons bobbing their heads and swaying as they sashayed through a packed house and sipped complimentary champagne.

Both perfomers shared vocal duties, but Phillips sang more of the songs, while Spohn played a gypsy’s countermelody. Tucked behind Spohn’s amp was a sitar, which he played on the tune “Italian Soft Porn.” Bent microtones added even more depth to Phillips’s jazzy chords — a juxtaposition of cultures that was more than just a novelty.

“It was a really chill atmosphere,” said UNF freshman Rachael Dollar. “For a while I thought it was going to be like Flight of the Conchords!”

The group also played a folk-blues number written by Phillips which featured fluttering tremolo lines from Spohn. They incorporated electric guitar and prerecorded bell tones on “Om Start.”

Their set mixed traditional bossa nova ideas with varying styles, some eclectic and some more contemporary. Unfortunately, none of the lyrics were sung in Portugese, as most bossa novas are.

Both Phillips and Spohn are veterans of the Jacksonville music scene. Phillips teaches guitar, piano and voice, while Spohn, who cited composer John Cage as an influence, claims to have “brought the noise scene to Jacksonville.”

Anyone interested in the Chris’ — that’s Spohn and Phillips — comings and goings can check out their Facebook: