After one too many Sunday mornings lugging half the contents of Tesco around bits of south London dampened by profoundly unconvincing snowflakes, I reach for something tropical. So perhaps it's no coincidence that both Luaka Bop and the Austrian jazz-to-pop Ziriguiboom label fancy their chances with compilations of new Brasilian jazz at this time of year.
Jazz musicians have eagerly embraced latin influences - and vice versa - since at least the end of WW2. There was even a period in the mid Sixties when trying to get a gig without a couple of bossa nova tunes in the book was like spitting into the wind. If it was good enough for Stan Getz or Dizzy Gillespie, and if Herbie Mann and Sergio Mendes could get rich quick off samba and bossa, why not?
Now Astor Piazzolla's tangos and octogenarian Cuban lounge acts fill the Albert Hall, while Jobim or Gal Costa truly sit comfortably next to Marley and The Chieftains in thousands of European living rooms. Latin music informs everything from The Mavericks to Baaba Maal. But the sixties bossa boom eventually transformed a vigorous, fertile fusion of African, native and European musics into something a lot closer to tinned soup: ingredients the same as the real thing, but what happened to the taste? It's just too easy to bolt some samba or lambada onto traditional pop changes and, hey, look, the Spice Girls singing All Around The World.
But Brasil is every bit as influential and volatile a music-making culture as the US, and these standout new collections illustrate that breadth. Ex-Talking Head David Byrne A&Rs Luaka Bop, and Tropical 2 is a follow up to his first Brasilian compilation - released in 1989 - that keeps the faith that breakthrough set inspired: giants like Gilberto Gil, Tom Zé and Caetano Veloso updating tropicalia, Marisa Monte and Carlos Careca's seductive nineties bossa sounds, the strident African drums of the Bloco Afro sound underpinning new star Daniela Mercury's patois-pop and original internationalist Sergio Mendes mixing it over and under jazz-rap lyrics that wouldn't be out of place on a Bootsy Collins set. . . .
Brasil 2mil compiles many of the best of Brasil's young bossa and axé dance-based acts who have absorbed house and trance - and, through Brasilian producer Béco Dranoff, breathed new life into bossa. If you've heard already heard Smoke City and Arto Lindsay (both represented here), you'll know how the melancholy of memory - the quintessentially Brasilian synthesis known as saudades that is traditionally alleviated by music - can be sweetly wrapped up in a parcel of jazz funk that defies categorisation. They call it Bass-o-Nova on the sleeve - a crap pun but a lovely record.
BELEZA: Gilberto Gil, Lenine, Os Paralamas Do Sucesso, Margareth Menezes, Chico Science, Caetano Veloso, Gonzaguinha, Tom Zé, Marisa Monte, Daniela Mercury, Carlos Carequa, Sergio Mendes, Arnaldo Antunes, Moleque De Rua
BRASIL 2MIL: Bebel Gilberto, Lenine, Arto Lindsay, rec.a, Smoke City, Arnaldo Antunes, Dañde, Suba, Virginia Rodrigues, Vinícius Cantuária, Andrea Marquee, Chico Science, Fernando Abreu, Arakatuba