CD Review: Brazil Bossa Beat! Reviewed by Jack Boitani

The Pearl From Ipanema:  Brazil Bossa Beat! Is a Pitch Perfect Compilation

In my opinion, Tropicalia: a Brazilian revolution in sound set the template for what a world music compilation should achieve. It exposed the Western pop music consumer to an unknown genre (in that case Brazilian psychedelia), it drew connections between what was happening in British and American musical circuits and the selected country at the time in which the music was recorded, it gathered the most important artists and tunes in the genre. Pretty much all world music discovery compilations follow Tropicalia‘s parameter, whether it is the case of a compilation of a minor Jamaican label of early pre-Bob Marley reggae, or the Ethiopique series, or pre-Paul Simon South-African music.

The best compilation record in a while to follow Tropicalia‘s footsteps happens to be, like its progenitor, inspired by Brazilian music and it’s titled Brazil Bossa Beat!. In this case, however, rather than the psychedelic sub-genre inspired by the likes of Caetano Veloso and Os Mutantes, we are offered a panoramic gathering of Bossa Nova altogether, circumstantiated to the soul jazz inspired Elenco label that flourished in the 1960: all the greats such as Edu Lobo and Baden Powell are represented.

As was the case with Tropicalia, what is surprising listening to the Elenco tunes, is how, under the overall umbrella of Bossa Nova, many wouldn’t be out of place in British or American records of the time. Badem Powell’s ‘Consolacao’ and ‘Candomble’, with their cascades of acoustic guitar riffs, wouldn’t be out of place as instrumental intermissions in rock operas like The Who’s Tommy. Vinicius De Moraes & Odette Lara’s ‘Berimbau’, with its flute introduction, could very easily be an excerpt gleaned from Traffic’s John Barleycorn.  The melody of Nara Leao’s ‘Nana’ is very close to The Beatles’ Indian-inspired ‘Blue Jay Way’. The arrangement in Lucio Alves’ ‘Negro’ is so close to the arrangements in early Dusty Springfield ballads it gives you the chills, while MPB-4′s ‘Sentinela’ is circa-Deja-vu Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The European influences in Brazil Bossa Beat! are not restricted to British 60s pop. MPB-4′s ‘Beco de Mota’ may very well develop in a circa 1967 Manfred Mann singalong, but its introduction is spot-on Gregorian chanting. Similarly, Sergio Ricardo’s ‘Enquanto a Tristesse Nao Vem’ is very reminiscent of Neapolitan or Roman regional tunes sung by Claudio Villa in 1950s Italy.

The other amazing aspect of the music in the compilation is its cinematic quality: tracks 3 and 21 could be exploited in a Nike commercial, the way that the Tamba Trio’s ‘Mas Que Mada’ was in the late 1990s, but they wouldn’t be out of place in a James Bond film or, with parodic purposes, in an Austin Powers installment. You can envision posh new-yorkers dancing to Sergio Ricardo’s ‘A Fabrica’ with the zeal typical of Whit Stillman’s characters, or Edu Lobo’s ‘Zanzibar’ being selected by Wes Anderson as the musical accompaniment in a ridiculous chase-sequence in one of his pictures.

In conclusion, Brazil Bossa Beat! is more than an introductory record to a label or a genre of world music. After listening to it, you may want to deepen your knowledge of those amazing Elenco records from back then. But, most importantly, you will want to play it all over again.

*This review was originally published on Cather In The Reel, on Dec. 29, 2013


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