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Of course, when it comes to bossa nova strains everyone is familiar with the timeless sound of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd, not to mention the critics’ contentions that after a few jazzy bossa records came out the rest of the lot were simply a retread of familiar territory. Close examination however shoots this myth right out of the water as there were many great Brazilian-inflected gems to come from the movement, including Zoot Sims’ Colpix sides, Coleman Hawkins’ deliciously melodic Desafinado and the Charlie Rouse Blue Note set Bossa Nova Bacchanal.
A native of Argentina, composer and pianist Lalo Schifrin had more than his share of work in the Afro-Cuban vein while working with Dizzy Gillespie, not to mention the arrangements he’d provide for bossa projects by the likes of Al Hirt and vocalist Pat Thomas. His own series of albums for Verve and producer Creed Taylor at the time made the most of Schifrin’s multi-faceted talents, but never quite so convincingly as on the 1963 set Samba Para Dos . In the company of valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer (who incidentally had recorded his own enchanting interpretation of that “Latin tinge” a mere five months earlier with Trombone Jazz Samba ), Schifrin and his 13-piece ensemble exude warmth and inspiration in a program that never fails to satisfy in its own jubilant manner.
The centerpiece of this set is a ten-minute romp through the title track, with Brookmeyer blowing Schifrin’s catchy head and the seven-piece horn section nicely punctuating with a riff or two here and there. The textural nuances that Brookmeyer can obtain with the valve trombone perfectly fit the animated quality of Schifrin’s writing and the composer himself contributes a lengthy and incendiary solo that builds the intensity and comes to a ferocious climax before a restatement of the main theme.
The rest of the program is made up of standards from the jazz lexicon, yet Schifrin manages to give each piece a Latinized facelift that still retains the essential beauty of the original. “What Kind of Fool Am I” is quintessential Brookmeyer, with Leo Wright’s flute work providing the perfect counterpoint. Guitarist Jimmy Raney’s mellow timbre also blends nicely with the horns and while Phil Woods, Jerome Richardson, Zoot Sims, and the rest of the section never get solo space per se, they execute the charts with the appropriate joie de vivre.
Along with other classics, such as New Fantasy and Marquis de Sade, Samba Para Dos ranks among Schifrin’s finest recorded works to date. Jazzy, but undeniably global in its appeal, it’s the kind of record that only gets better with age and the fact that it still remains in reissue limbo is really a sin. And lest we forget to mention it, Brookmeyer fans will want to pick up on this one too, for the trombone legend puts down some of the most intensely lyrical work ever heard from a man who’s own early catalog is somewhat on the lean side.