Perhaps like a lot of singers, she began pursuing the art more seriously after someone heard her at a party and said, "Did you know you could sing?" "I'd sung in choir in school, and in a Renaissance choir, but it had never been my ambition," she tells me when we get together at Ryles. A jazz enthusiast, she took some singing lessons, enrolled in the John Payne Music Center ensemble class, and discovered that bossa nova brought together folk, pop, and jazz in a way that fit for her. Plus, it had a "smoky back-room flavor" perfect for her contralto range. And she began to realize that the lyricists she was singing were influenced by the Portuguese and Brazilian poets and novelists her father taught — Luís de Camões, Fernando Pessoa, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis.
Between music producing, medical interpreting, and singing, Coelho is satisfied that, above all, "what I'm here for is to connect people. I get so much out of watching a good connection." In that regard, she's also been working with arts organizer Brad Powell on his Microfundo micro-funding program for musicians (microfundo.org).
But colleagues have been pushing her to sing more. One friend told her, "Anita, why are you going for the difficult songs? You should do more easy, upbeat songs. You do these things that break your back!" Her response was unequivocal: "That's the magic right there! If I can get all these thirds and fifths and have one word that tags me into the next verse and tells this long story, then I'm in hog heaven! It's not that I want to be a hero or a show-off, but because it makes it more interesting to my ears."
ANITA COELHO BRAZILIAN ENSEMBLE | Regattabar, Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett St, Cambridge | March 16 at 7:30 pm | $12 | regattabarjazz.com | CHRISTIAN SCOTT | Scullers, DoubleTree Guest Suites Hotel, 400 Soldiers Field Road, Boston | March 24 at 8 + 10 pm | $20 | scullersjazz.com