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Brazilian Jazz Quartet: Pepper Pot

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Last week, I was listening to early Brazilian bossa nova albums from the late 1950s when I came across an obscure one from 1958. The album was by a Rio group known as the Brazilian Jazz Quartet. Recorded in 1958 for Columbia, Coffee and Jazz featured alto saxophonist José Ferreira Godinho Filho (better known as Casé), pianist Moacyr Peixoto, bassist Luiz Alves and drummer Rubens Alberto.

What sets this album apart is that Casé sounds an awful lot like Art Pepper and Peixoto sounds like a mix between Russ Freeman and Claude Williamson. So much so that after my first listen, I thought this album might have been recorded by Pepper and Freeman on the sly for a sub rosa payday while under contract to another label.

I even shared it with Todd Selbert, whose West Coast jazz ears I trust implicitly. Todd is the editor of The Art Pepper Companion: Writings on a Jazz Original. Todd was convinced it wasn't Pepper or Williamson but agreed that the musicians were clearly deeply influenced by them.

That's when I remembered what Bud Shank had told me during an interview back in 2008. We talked about his friendship with early bossa nova pioneers in the 1950s and about their passion for the relaxed approach of Chet Baker and West Coast jazz in general.

How did they know about the music? Regular flights from Los Angeles to Rio in the late 1950s meant people returning from visits to L.A. often came home with armfuls of West Coast jazz albums. Many of those albums were also sold in Rio.

Interestingly, this is similar to the way American jazz musicians found out about the bossa nova years later when musician friends on tour returned to the U.S. with Brazilian albums. Amazing how West Coast jazz initially influenced the bossa nova in the 1950s and then the bossa nova influenced jazz starting in the 1960s.

Clearly, the Brazilian Jazz Quartet had spent hours listening to West Coast jazz albums. Casé must have played along with all of Pepper's recordings until he had figured out how to sound like him. Peixoto must have fallen in love with the sound of Freeman and Williamson. So much so that when Coffee and Jazz was recorded, these two musicians could have passed for clones of their American idols.

But enough history. You'll find Coffee and Jazz here. And here's the full album at YouTube. You be the judge...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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