At the 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival an unknown by the name of Bola Sete wowed the audience with a sprightly mix of traditional Brazilian singing, dancing, and guitar playing. The audience loved it, but unfortunately Sete’s appearance was ill timed and he never got much mileage out of it; the bossa nova craze wouldn’t hit until about a year later. In fact, Sete has always been a marginal figure in the Latin jazz scene, despite being a Brazilian native; even Americans like Charlie Byrd enjoy a certain cult status within those circles. Nor did he manage to get much out of his collaborations with Vince Guaraldi, whose Charlie Brown records overshadow anything else he did. Now that these Sete recordings are back in print, the time to recognize his legacy deserves a second look. This CD isn’t jazz, exactly, but the ripples of this traditional music were far reaching indeed and this is about as authentic as it gets. Many will recognize a few of these songs from recordings by other artists; however, Sete also contributes quite a few charming originals. All are suffused with the warmth and seductive rhythms one might expect; at times the percussion is so enthusiastically delivered it threatens to overwhelm the guitarist. No matter; Sete always manages to hold his own with his crisp and accurate guitar playing. Add a few unexpected delights, like songs from Mancini and Bach, and you’ve got an album that constantly uncovers new delights. A record like this tends to be hard to hear objectively, simply because it’s so damn entertaining. Grab a mai tai and enjoy.
Up the Creek (T
Bola Sete-guitar, Ben Tucker, Fred Schrieber-bass, Dave Bailey, John Rae-drums, J.D. Paula, Carmen Costa-percussion.