Seven ball, corner pocket. If Bola Sete had chosen cue stick over guitar there’s little doubt he would have brought similar agility and acumen to the game of billiards. Luckily for listeners across the globe he chose the latter instrument as his means of expression. Particulars on Sete’s colorful career are recounted elsewhere—his Bohemian youth spent in Rio as well as his place at the ground floor of the bossa nova explosion and his narrow miss at beating the team of Getz and Gilberto with an American debut of the form.
Fantasy couples two albums on this recent compilation gathering material from three sessions. The umbrella title could easily pass for a Martin Denny or Les Baxter platter, but rest assured the music here is firmly ensconced in light and eminently listenable '60s samba sound. The first ten tracks, originally issued as The Incomparable Bola Sete , intersperse tunes recorded in San Francisco and L.A. On the former the acoustic guitarist hooks up with studio percussionist Johnny Rae. Each man overdubs an extra element to the music (Sete shoulders bass guitar and Rae weaves in a second rhythmic line) and the end result is a surprisingly smooth fusion of snaking beats and lilting chords. The second session weds Sete’s strings to a solid if slightly checkered West Coast jazz team for another clutch of light and airy bossas. Paul Horn’s flute is a bit anemic in spots, but Budwig’s athletic bass lines compensate and a nimble solo on “Waltz of the City” boosts the tune’s stock considerably. Nick Martinez’s traps are competent if largely unremarkable despite some delicate brush play.
The final nine tunes come from Autentico! ; roll the calendar forward sixteen months. They find Sete fronting a fresh working trio with countrymen Neto and Paulinho on bass and percussion respectively. The liners describe the pair as minor legends in Brazilian music and their supple support of Sete’s filigree picking and strumming substantiates the claim. Continuity in personnel between tracks and the tight affinity the three men audibly share makes for more a more cohesive listening experience. Sete draws on the surroundings to flavor his fretwork with clever and subtle deviations in rhythm and melody, even switching to amplified strings for a few numbers like the boogaloo-driven “Baion Blues.” This music is ideal for summer veranda listening, well-iced mojito in hand with bright-sun beaming down over a coastal ocean view. And to keep the pool analogy rolling, consider this particular ball a sure sink with plenty of natural English.