Various Artists: Brazilian Horizons, Volume 2
This continues a series from last year, showing the lasting influence of samba/bossa nova on jazz musicians, and their effect, in turn, on Brazil. While Volume One was mostly in the ‘Seventies, this one digs deep, going nearly a quarter-century to show how long the two musics have been married – and how deep the love for each other.
We first hear a flute – and not just any guitar. It’s Antonio Carlos Jobim, playing his tune “Dreamer” while its lyric is sung by the arranger Gary McFarland. Released as a 45 in 1964, and forgotten until now, it’s a very pleasant surprise. McFarland’s voice is devoid of all “technique”, but his simple sincerity puts the tune across. The guitar groove continues as we hear one master interpreting another: Charlie Byrd plays “Salute to Bonfa”. (The tune was adapted by another pivotal figure, Joao Gilberto.) It’s a vigorous workout, recorded two weeks after the Byrd/Getz Jazz Samba album, and there’s a good bass solo by Keter Betts. When I heard the big bass on the next track, I thought it was Byrd again – until I heard the piano! It’s Vince Guaraldi, and his bright version of “Samba de Orfeu.” It’s a great performance that suffered a dire fate: it was the “A” side of the 45 that had “Cast Your Fate to the Wind”, Guaraldi’s big hit.
We go back a few years, and change moods entirely. John Coltrane’s “Bahia”, recorded near the end of his Prestige Records contract, is one of his finest moments for that label. As Red Garland plays the percussive theme, Trane flutters, explores, indulges in multiphonics, and travels the worls in his brief solo. It’s a tough act to follow, but Paul Chambers does very well with an elegant bowed solo; this vigorous standard is maintained by the next cut. Clark Terry on flugelhorn shines on Dave Pike’s “Carnival Samba”, a hopping thing with a great rhythm part by Kenny Burrell. Pike mostly comps, and does it so well it took me a few listen to realize there was no piano. This warm number was arranged by Joao Donato, who we hear from again, and soon.
Jazz and Brazil trade influences on “Bluchanga”, a hot track from Mongo Santamaria. Mongo is Cuban, and his band normally played pachangas and the like; here he plays a Donato tune with the composer at the piano. Donato has also been influenced: “Bluchanga” is based on “A Night in Tunisia”, and his lush solo owes little to Brazil as he chords up a storm. The theme returns; the Brazilian flute and Cuban violin get along very well indeed. We return to the bossa on Carlos Lyra’s “Influencia do Jazz”, played sweetly by Bola Sete, a frequent associate of Vince Guaraldi. It’s welcome as a gentle breeze, and gone just as quickly.
The next tracks take us into the ‘Seventies, and all show a deep blending of music. Eumir Deodato’s “A Little Tear” is played by Milt Jackson, from a string date he did in 1976. While the splendid Jimmy Jones arrangement carries the bossa beat, Jackson is his normal warm self, and the mood is marvelous. Bill Evans, in duet with Eddie Gomez, handles “Saudade do Brasil” much like one of his own tunes (I hear a little “Blue in Green” here.) When Evans switches to electric piano, the mood changes entirely; he’s less distinctive on the electric, but it’s an interesting idea. Stanley Turrentine, on a very lush 1976 date, plays Jobim’s “Ligia” like a typical jazz ballad, with the only hint of Brazil coming in a whiff of percussion.
Freddie Hubbard’s sad flugelhorn opens “Manha de Carnaval” while McCoy Tyner weighs in with especially thick piano. This is possibly the best fusion displayed here; it sounds Brazilian while the musicians remain true to their own personalities. The next is a surprise, a funk track with Kenny Burrell, which captures a lot of the CTI Records sound while keeping the jazz mood. Burrell is great on “Nana”, sounding funky without the distortion he often used in the ‘Seventies. It’s a worthwhile blend, as most of these are.
The homestretch is a joy. We hear Ella Fitzgerald in an absolutely infectious version of “Madalena”, from a famous ’72 concert in Santa Monica. Described by the artist as “part Portuguese and part Ella”, it’s a delirious scatfest, with a quote of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” and a very pretty ending. Charlie Byrd returns, on electric guitar this time, paired with Cal Tjader (turning his attention to Brazil after years of playing Afro-Cuban.) This track belongs to the percussionists, and Mike Wolff’s prominent electric piano. It sounds like Tjader’s Amazonas album, which supplied a cut to Volume One of this series. And the final cut is sheer beauty, my favorite on the album. Dom Um Romao leads a huge ensemble through Milton Nascimento’s “Escravos De Jo”, the sad chords sounding hopeful through vocal chanting and a splendid arrangement by Celia Vaz. I cannot praise this track, or Alan Rubin’s fiery trumpet, too highly. Putting a track this good at the end is a master s! troke: it leaves you wanting more, and yes, a Brazilian Horizons, Volume Three is in the works.