Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday's pill: Brazilliance

Lazy clichés say of Brazilliance that it was bossa nova, chapter 0. As it happens, bossa nova it ain't. There's Brazilian as well as jazz in it, true, but not so much to do with what Jobim and Gilberto would create in the late 1950s, in Brazil.

For those who don't know these records, Brazilliance, volumes I & II, are two CDs with music recorded in 1953 and 1958 respectively for Californian label Pacific Jazz, originally under Brazilian emigré Laurindo Almeida's leadership, with Bud Shank on alto, and either Harry Babasin (I) or Gary Peacock (II) on bass, and Roy Harte (I) or Chuck Flores (II) on drums.

I guess that the "bossa nova" tag is attached to this music because a) it sounds like a neat guess, and b) it could be a good hook for quite a number of people. Problem is that a) it's not really bossa, and b) you will always have people discouraged by the bossa tag who could have enjoyed the music, as well as the disappointed bossa lovers.

This is more a mixture of baião and other Brazilian rhythms with straight 4/4 jazz, part of the mild experimentation that took place in 1950s Californian jazz, but you will not find any of the "stuttering rhythms" that came out of João Gilberto's guitar and vocals, even though some of this music seems to be asking for it, like the first part of "Inquietação" (listen on YouTube). Rhythmically it's much simpler, and harmonically it keeps firmly within the jazz frame of the moment. In any case, what really matters is that it sounds fresh, it's music for warm summer sunsets, with light, swinging rhythms, and the unamplified sound of Almeida's guitar tempering its whole atmosphere.

This CDs (covers pictured) were issued as World Pacific/Capitol-EMI CDP 7 96339 2 and CDP 7 96102 2, respectively. They can also be heard on Spotify and YouTube.

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