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The ascendancy of the Bossa Nova ‘craze’ in the late 1950s and 60s was birthed by a succession of highly successful musical partnerships- Laurindo Almeida and Bud Shank, Sergio Mendes and Herbie Mann, Stan Getz and just about every major Brazilian musician of the day including Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto- all were major proponents of the style. One partnership that is often bypassed in discussions of the music is that shared between Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete and California-based cool jazz pianist Guaraldi. Guaraldi’s principle legacy in the public consciousness rests in his inventive scores for Charles Shultz’s Peanuts films. Outside a devoted cadre of fans Sete’s legacy is largely abandoned. This new Fantasy two-fer combining the pair’s first and third albums on the label into one convenient package points a persuasive finger at their important contributions.
Bola Sete, who’s sobriquet is Portugese for ‘Ball Number Seven,’ (an early nickname the guitarist acquired from his peers because of his dark complexion) was and remains one of the most virtuosic of string stylists in Brazil’s musical history. Guaraldi fostered a strong affection for South American and Latin rhythms in his playing and the bulk of his recordings combined these interests with blues-based patterns. On these two sessions with a the sensitive rhythmic accompaniment of Marshall and Granelli in tow both players leap into a stimulating program of tunes that allow them to remain true to a relaxed and contemplative mood. The music is by and large light and airy, made even moreso by Sete’s tactfully manipulated acoustic strings and Granelli’s frequent attention to brushes and cowbell. Bossa Nova-inflected numbers like “Casaba” and “More” alternate with blues like the Horace Silver “Moon Rays.”
The final seven tracks, gleaned from their third album, revisit Sete and Guaraldi, with a different drummer and bassist at a gig at the El Matador club. Curiously “El Matador” has a melodic theme reminiscent of Guaraldi’s big hit “Linus and Lucy.” Sete sits out for the first several numbers but makes his eventual entrance on “O Morro Não Tem Vez.” Despite a faulty balance between the instruments inherent in the recording these pieces persevere and swing just as hard.
Sete’s currently available discography is pitifully small and for this reason alone makes this reissue is a valuable one. The music generously gathered here exists as an enlightening window into a working combo that was instrumental in communicating the Bossa Nova to a large audience, but for reasons historical and otherwise has been relegated to a lesser role. Arnaldo DeSouteiro’s brilliant liner notes do much to elucidate the contributions of both Sete and Guaraldi, placing them both in the context of the music and beyond. An interesting side note is the presence of Granelli in the rhythm section. On these numbers he provides understated accompaniment and seems a very different musician than the one working today as an elder improviser in the flourishing New York downtown scene alongside such players as Briggan Krauss and Chris Speed.
Tracks:Casaba/ Mambossa/ Star Song/ Moon Rays/ The Days of Wine and Roses/ El Matador/ I’m a Loser/ Nobody Else/ More (Theme From Mondo Cane)/ O Morro Não Tem Vez (Somewhere In the Hills)/ Black Orpheus Suite/ People.
Players:Vince Guaraldi- piano; Bola Sete- guitar; Fred Marshall- bass; Jerry Granelli- drums.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.