This week’s Cosmic Jazz is dedicated to the music of Brazil. We’ve long been fans of the diversity of music in this huge South American country. Like Japan, there’s something special about the way it takes a musical genre and twists it into a unique sound. So, acknowledging the recent death of Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto, this time we’re focusing on some of our favourite Brazilian sounds both old and new.
1. Otis Trio – Montag’s Dream from 74 Club
Sāo Paulo’s Otis Trio released their 74 Club album in 2014 – and then seem to have fallen silent. Surprisingly perhaps, their roots lie the European and American free jazz scenes of the 60s and 70s. Some five years in gestation and recorded on vintage analogue equipment for period authenticity, 74 Club is (as the Far Out press release of the time noted) both deftly subtle and furiously intense with the standard trio configuration of guitar, bass and drums augmented with both vibes and a posse of free blowing horn players who together create a sound which reverberates with echoes of Ornette Coleman, Sonny Sharrock and Pharoah Sanders. Whew! Montag’s Dream may start off as more of a straight ahead modal excursion with vibes very much to the fore – but it’s not long before some Pharonic tenor sax kicks in. We like it and we hope you do too.
2. Stan Getz/Joāo Gilberto – The Girl From Ipanema from Getz/Gilberto
Up next was Astrud Gilberto herself from her first recording with her then husband Joāo Gilberto and saxophonist Stan Getz. There are numerous stories around on how this young, inexperienced singer appeared on the record but her appearance inaugurated the whispery, vocal version of that languid, delicate characteristic of the bossa nova – nylon strung guitars creating a reduction/synthesis of samba percussion. Gilberto – who died earlier this month aged 83 – sang on just two tracks on this 1964 album but this was enough to seal her place in musical history. The Girl from Ipanema might be seen as nothing more than a wine bar cliché but the lyrics remain a powerful evocation of Rio’s most famous district. We played the edited 45 single version of the tune which omits the Brazilian lyrics of Joāo Gilberto but emphasises those carioca qualities of the girl ‘who passes by’.
3. Antonio Carlos Jobim – Wave from Wave
The writer of The Girl from Ipanema, Tom Jobim, is one of Brazil’s greatest composers. The album Wave from 1967 was arranged by Claus Ogerman following his move from Germany to become the house arranger at Verve Records and so co-created hundreds of records including albums by Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Diana Krall. Wave features two of Jobim’s most famous tunes – the title track and the beautiful Triste – and is the definition of that Brazilian style in which evocative and sometimes complex lyrics are embedded in an unforgettable melody: the fundamental loneliness goes whenever two can dream a dream together…
4. Baden Powell – Coisa No. 1 from Baden Powell Meets Jimmy Pratt
From the heydays of the bossa wave comes a successful cooperation between Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell and American drummer Jimmy Pratt on the unimaginatively-titled album Baden Powell Swings with Jimmy Pratt. Composer of our choice Coisa No.1, Moacir Santos is heard here on baritone saxophone. You can listen to the original orchestrated version of that Santos tune right here on the album Coisa from 1965. Coisa just means ‘thing’ and each of these ten ‘things’ are mini-masterpieces. It’s a bonafide Cosmic Jazz recommendation. Guitarist Baden Powell was, of course, deeply influenced by jazz but was also a more than proficient classical guitarist whose favourite composers included Bach and Tárrega. For another side to Baden Powell, check out Canto from his excellent MPS album Images on Guitar from 1972.
5. Tamba Trio – Influēncia do Jazz from Tamba Trio
Perhaps the most talented of all the bossa nova group of the 1960s, Tamba Trio pretty much created the bossa-pop sound, fusing bossa nova melodies with close harmony vocals. Their take on Jorge Ben’s Mas Que Nada became the best-known version of that much-covered tune. Influēncia do Jazz comes from their first self-titled album, itself full of excellent tunes including compositions Luíz Eça from the band, Jobim and Joāo Donato. In 1968, Eça reformed the band as Tamba 4 and recorded two albums for Creed Taylor’s CTI label – We and the Sea and Samba Blim. Both are worth looking out for with the former including a great take on their earlier hit Consolaçāo.
6. Sandra (de) Sá – Ohlos Coloridos from Sandra Sá (5)
Neil first heard this record when crate digging in the Brazilian section in a small regional record shop in the UK. Ohlos Coloridos or Colourful Eyes is the standout track from her fifth self titled album (1986). It’s based on an infectious guitar and bass riff and the lyrics refer to Sá’s Cape Verdean ancestry – You laugh at my clothes/You laugh ar my hair/You laugh at my skin/You laugh at my smile/But the truth is: you also/Have creole blood. In Brazil, tri-racial people with African, European and Amerindian heritage are referred to as sarará. Check out this live version from Brazilian television to capture some of this song’s energy.
7. Marcos Valle – Cinzento from Cinzento
Marcos Valle is something of a Cosmic Jazz hero. Neil has been lucky enough to see him live in the UK and has written previously on the Cosmic Jazz blog pages about the personal importance of Valle’s music but this is the title track on Valle’s most recent record. The set was recorded in 2020 for the independent DeckDisc label and there while there are some references back to earlier records, Valle looked to a younger generation of artists as his lyricists. These include Kassin, Moreno Veloso and rapper Emicida, who appears on two tracks on the album including this one. Cinzento (or Grey) includes poetic lyrics about the recycling not of materials but of time and life itself. In the bridge, Valle sings: In everything I find grace/Even in the midst of disgrace/I understand and laugh at grace/That life is still for free…if everything is a cycle, I recycle and become more beautiful… While Cinzento doesn’t have the dancefloor pace of its predecessor Sempre from 2019, it’s instead a change of pace and a reaffirmation of how Valle (an impossibly youthful 79) remains a composer and performer of rare sophistication.
8. Stan Getz/Joāo Gilberto – Corcovado from Getz/Gilberto
And so we return to the inspiration for this show – the unique voice of Astrud Gilberto. Corcovado was written by Tom Jobim and is an evocation of the mountain outside Rio on which the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer stands looking out over the city. The subtitle of the song is Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars and reference a view of the mountain from the city: Quiet nights of quiet stars/Quiet chords from my guitar/Floating on the silence that surrounds us/Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams/Quiet walks by quiet streams/And a window that looks out on Corcovado… The English lyrics by Gene Rees conclude in that typically lyrically Brazilian way: I, who was lost and lonely/Believing life was only/A bitter, tragic joke have found with you/The meaning of existence, oh, my love… There are numerous versions of this endlessly malleable song – for something different, try this surprisingly subtle drum and bass take on Corcovado from Everything But the Girl, featuring similarly breathy vocals from Tracey Thorn.
9. Sabrina Malheiros – Clareia from Clareia
Sabrina Malheiros was born in Rio and is the daughter of Alex Malheiros – bass player with Azymuth and now the only surviving member of the original trio. Title tune Clareia comes from her 2017 album on the UK’s Far Out label. As with much of Malheiros’ music for the label, the tune was written in collaboration with her father and producer Daniel Maunick – son of Bluey Maunick, founder of British jazzfunk legends Incognito. Father Alex plays bass on much of the album and it’s a classy effort that’s well worth exploring. Incidentally, Alex Malheiros continues to record his own material – his most recent album Tempos Futuros emerged in 2021 – here’s the track Prece which returns the favour with Sabrina on vocals. Finally, there’s a rather good IG Culture remix of Clareia that will get you moving – the 12inch record is still available here on Discogs.
We return to a more jazzy mix for the next show – look out on Twitter and Facebook for news.