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Washington, DC Event Celebrates 50 Years Of Samba And Bossa Nova


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The landmark album Jazz Samba was recorded at All Souls Unitarian Church in 1962 and changed the sonic landscape forever. Fronted by guitarist Charlie Byrd and saxophonist Stan Getz, the album rose to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart where it remained for 70 weeks! The recording introduced millions of music lovers world wide to the alluring sounds of samba and bossa nova, and helped elevate the careers of these American musicians and the Brazilian innovators.

Fifty years later, the church will host the Jazz Samba Golden Anniversary Event, paying tribute to the music and musicians who made history and to celebrate the remarkable cultural exchange ignited by their album – an exchange that continues to the present day.

At 3:00 p.m. the international band Veronneau will preview music from their forthcoming second album, Jazz Samba Project, slated for June release. The enticing tunes include the classic samba “E Luxo So,” a tune that appeared on the 1962 Jazz Samba album. Lynn Véronneau sings the lyrics in Portuguese. Also featured are the bossa nova favorite “Meditation” and some exciting new tunes such as their bossa nova arrangement of the reggae hit “Waiting in Vain,” by Bob Marley.

Veronneau’s album and their concert performance feature their core band: French Canadian vocalist Lynn Veronneau, British guitarist Ken Avis, Brazilian trained guitarist and composer David Rosenblatt and American drummer Pete Walby. (It was Walby who suggested the project to pay homage to the earlier recording.) Guest musicians include American trombonist Jim McFalls, Canadian saxophonist Jeff Antoniuk and Brazilian percussionist Alejandro Lucini.

The Veronneau band is ideally suited to celebrate the genre. The group’s first album, Joie de Vivre – Joy of Living, included bossa nova, samba, Gypsy Jazz and swing – tunes collected from around the world and sung expertly in three languages. Earning praise from critics worldwide, the album hit the top ten at radio stations in many countries and jumped to No. 9 in the world music category of the Jazzweek charts. Currently based in Northern Virginia, the two-year-old group has performed in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Their website sees visitors from over 100 countries.

For the band and their team of helpers, the concert is both a CD release and the culmination of a year of research into the history of Jazz Samba and the six musicians who appeared on the 1962 album. Besides Getz and Charlie Byrd, they included bassists Keter Betts and Gene (Joe) Byrd and drummers Bill Reichenbach and Buddy Deppenschmidt.

Felix Grant Archivist Judith Korey and Jennifer Betts (daughter of Keter Betts), and many others aided the project. The samba team spoke with Deppenschmidt, interviewed bassist Joe Byrd (who sadly passed away in March) and took a road trip to visit (Charlie Byrd’s widow) Becky Byrd at The Mainstay in Rock Hall, Maryland. (The Eastern Shore venue boasts a huge collection of Charlie Byrd memorabilia, much of it related to Jazz Samba.) On May 20, the concert and panel discussion bring the music back home to its original location, All Souls Church.

Panel Discussion All Souls Unitarian Church encouraged hosting a panel discussion with music experts who would share some of the music history with the greater community. They also furnished many contacts and sources of information. Thus, following the concert, WPFW’s Candy Shannon will moderate a panel discussion from 4:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m., with intriguing new information about the historic album and the musical tidal wave that followed. Panelists include WPFW jazz programmer, jazz historian and educator Rusty Hassan, Brazilian musician and educator Leonardo Lucini and musician and Catholic University doctoral student Ben Redwine.

The panel will discuss the origins of samba and bossa nova, talk about how this sensational music became mainstream, and give their opinions about why and how it continues to be played by jazz musicians and enjoyed by millions of fans around the world. This celebratory event encourages understanding of the enormous cultural exchange that continues to bring Brazilian music to the ears of the American audience.

All Souls Church is located at 1500 Harvard Street NW, Washington DC 20009. Admission for the concert and/or panel discussion is $20 for adults and children 12 and older. Children under 12 are admitted to the concert for free. The panel discussion is not recommended for children. Tickets are available through instantseats.com For more information and tickets call 703- 677-5405.

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