When Brazilian Jazz Came to the US

When Brazilian Jazz Came to the US

    Little did jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd and his friend saxophonist
    Stan Getz know that their 1962
    album called Jazz Samba would
    create a
    bossa nova craze throughout the United States, a
    that would generate many other historical albums
    influence musicians and fans all over the world.


    Ernest Barteldes


    In 1962, jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd performed in Brazil during a USIS tour, and brought back several long-playing
    albums by a group of local musicians that had been developing a new sound that blended elements of samba with West Coast
    cool jazz and other influences.

    Intrigued by that sound, then already called the
    bossa nova, Byrd contacted New York saxophonist Stan Getz and
    showed him the records. Getz quickly became interested in that music, and the two musicians decided to collaborate on an
    album (recorded in only a few hours) with these songs, which was released later that year under the name
    Jazz Samba (Verve Records).

    Little did they know that their album would generate a
    bossa nova craze throughout the country, a phenomenon that
    would generate many other historical albums and influence musicians and fans all over the world.

    Over the years, several compilations of bossa nova
    hits have been released, but the problem with those albums is
    that most of them always carry the same tracks, such as "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars" or "The Girl of Ipanema" from the
    1964 Getz/Gilberto album or "How Insensitive", from Antonio Carlos Jobim’s classic collaboration with Frank Sinatra.

    Which brings us to Bossa Nova Lounge series, whose songs come from the most unexpected sources, that might
    surprise even those schooled in the genre. In its third installment, entitled
    Look To The Sky, there are quite a few goodies to keep
    an open ear to.

    The opener is "Remember", an unlikely instrumental Antonio Carlos Jobim track from his 1970
    Tide album. The reason I call it unlikely is because the song doesn’t even sound like Jobim. Gone are the softly played piano and the acoustic
    guitar. Instead, the maestro pounds an electric keyboard accompanied by a very American-sounding jazz band.

    Maybe that has to do with Eumir Deodato’s participation in the recording. Deodato, a Brazilian producer/musician
    who wrote the arrangements on "Remember", has always enjoyed to experiment with music a bit, as can be heard elsewhere
    on the album.

    For instance, on "Você" (You), while guitarist Roberto Menescal and saxophonist J.T. Meireles expertly trade
    licks throughout the song, Deodato plays weird piano chords on what was otherwise a very simple arrangement. Deodato’s
    presence is also noticed on Marcos Valle’s rendition of "Ela É Carioca" (She’s a Carioca).

    While Valle softly sings and plays guitar with a very traditional backing band, the producer (who also wrote the
    arrangements on this 1963 recording) comments on proceedings by playing an electric keyboard that at times seems a bit out of place.

    A very welcome tune is "Só Tinha de Ser com Você" (It Had to Be With You), performed by one of Brazil’s
    greatest voices, Elis Regina. The song, a Jobim/Aloysio de Oliveira composition, tells us of a selfless love affair that, alas, was
    meant to be.

    Elis Regina (who passed away in 1982 at 36) was at the top of her form as a performer at the time of the recording,
    and one of the great classics of Brazil’s music is her rendition of "Waters of March", which was released on her 1974
    contribution with Jobim, Elis & Tom, where "Só Tinha de Ser com Você" was also featured. Also worthy of mention is "Mas Que
    Nada" (No Way), popularized in the U.S. by Sergio Mendes in 1966.

    On this album we hear the song’s composer, Jorge Ben, in a rare recording of the classic. Ben, unlike others who
    remade it, took a very simple approach by singing and playing his guitar with a very simple backing band arranged by J.T. Meireles.

    Another highlight is "Lost in Paradise", an English-language Caetano Veloso composition with a heartfelt vocal by
    Gal Costa. "Lost in Paradise" was written while Veloso was in his enforced exile in Britain after being expelled from Brazil
    by the military government, and the confused lyrics reflect the composer’s puzzlement with his situation:

    My little grasshopper airplane
    Cannot fly very high
    I find you so far from my side
    I’m lost in my old green light…

    There are, of course, some weak moments. I did not understand, for instance, why the album’s producers included
    yet another version of "Dreamer" in this album? Wasn’t it enough to feature it in a previous CD (OK, it was in English on
    the other album). And was it really necessary to include Sergio Mendes’s take on "The Girl from Ipanema"?

    The album ends with a beautiful Jobim instrumental, "Look to the Sky". On this 1967 recording, Tom (as he was
    known in Brazil) sounds more like himself as he plays his ultra-soft right-hand piano solo backed by his own guitar and a
    beautiful arrangement by Claus Ogerman, who also arranged and conducted Jobim’s album with Frank Sinatra.

    Bossa Nova Lounge/Look To The Sky is a great album altogether, and it still sounds good after repeated hearings.
    Highly recommended both for jazz lovers and to those who want to learn a little more about good Brazilian music.

    Bossa Nova Lounge/Look To The Sky – Various Artists – Dubas Musica/Musicrama


    Ernest Barteldes is an ESL and Portuguese teacher. In addition to that, he is a freelance writer who has
    regularly been contributing The Greenwich Village
    Gazette since September 1999. His work has also been published by
    Brazzil, The Staten Island Advance,
    The Staten Island Register, The SI
    Muse, The Villager, GLSSite and other
    publications. He lives in Staten Island, NY. He can be reached at

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