Post-dating the craze igniting pairing of Getz and Gilberto that resulted in Jazz Samba by several months these recordings by Brazilian guitar phenom Sete are cut from the same crowd-pleasing source- a fusing of South American folk themes and rhythms with jazz-based improvisation. Much of the music of Sete’s early American trios leans more toward the Latin side of the equation, but both rhythm sections bring solid jazz credentials to the table as well. The team of Tucker and Bailey stands out especially well in this regard, both having logged time as sidemen innumerable bop sessions. Percussionists Paula and Costa ostensibly make the first group a quintet, but their presence is largely for rhythmic color. The focus throughout remains mainly on the leader’s sparkling chordal improvisations. The second group, rounded out by Schrieber and Rae and sans traditional percussion, also makes a strong showing. Material from two albums is represented in the disc’s generous 22 tracks and the guitarist exhibits a surprisingly broad reach in terms of tunes. Albeniz’s “Asturias” (a favorite of Spanish guitar virtuoso Segovia) is among the unexpected choices and Sete makes a convincing go at the composition’s intricate and plummeting progressions.
Pop songs prove another refineable resource and Sete, backed only by Rae’s cymbals subverts Mancini’s maudlin “Moon River” with delicacy and ingenuity. Where Sete slips a notch is in his decision to sing. Possessing a set of pipes and inflection not up to the task he croons through a handful of tunes like the early “Dilemma,” but fortunately his stellar guitar work carries enough weight to counterbalance his vocal shortcomings. Songs that would soon become Bossa Nova standards such as Jobim’s “Manhã de Carnaval” and Bonfa’s “Samba de Orfeú” also serve as beguiling entries in the trios’ songbooks. Each track blends easily into the next and over the disc’s hour duration Sete’s fluid fret style and tautly tuned acoustic strings serve as the perfect poultice for moods made dreary by the cloudy days of fall. Sete’s reputation may not have ascended to heights comparable to those scaled by peers such as Gilberto and Bonfa, but as these recordings denote, his ability to balance instrumental acumen with experimental verve was easily on par.
Up the Creek (T
Bola Sete-guitar, Ben Tucker, Fred Schrieber-bass, Dave Bailey, John Rae-drums, J.D. Paula, Carmen Costa-percussion.