Release Info: Os Cobras - O LP (1964)
Released 1964 on RCA (BBL-1290) in Brazil
Reissue 2005 Sony-BMG France
In GLORIOUS MONOPHONIC
01 - Quintessência (J. T. Meirelles)
02 - Nanã (Moacir Santos / Mário Telles)
03 - Depois de Amro (Orlann Divo / Roberto Jorge)
04 - Adriana (Roberto Menescal / Luis Fernando Freire)
05 - Praia (Orlann Divo / Roberto Jorge)
06 - Uganda (Orlann Divo / Roberto Jorge)
07 - The Blues Walk (C. Brown)
08 - 40 Graus (Orlando Costa ''Maestro Cipó'')
09 - Chão (Amaury Tristão / Roberto Jorge)
10 - Menina Demais (Orlann Divo / Roberto Jorge)
11 - Mar Amar (Roberto Menescal / Ronaldo Bôscoli)
12 - Moça da Praia (Roberto Menescal / Luis Fernando Freire)
Tenorio Jr. (piano)
José Carlos "Zezinho" (bass)
Milton Banana (drums)
Raul de Souza (trombone)
Meirelles (sax alto, flute)
Paulo Moura (sax alto)
Aurino (sax baritono)
Cipó (sax tenor)
Roberto Menescal (guitar on 10 & 12)
Ugo (vibraphone on 10 & 12)
Lately, in my real job, I've been pushing my way through a chunk of writer's block rough enough to leave your hands bleeding from the splinters. That results in a few adverse effects that involve you, blog reader: I have less time to put into writing for this place, and then when I do have free time it's usually spent feeling like an idiot about the other stuff I've been working on.
But instrumental music is often the only music that I can write to when working on that "other stuff" and this record has gotten a few spins over the last month. It's kind of a super group, Brazilian jazz all-stars affair, the result of the label RCA-Victor approaching composer and arranger Roberto Jorge to make a record with the regular heavyweights in Rio's jazz scene congregating around the jam sessions at places like Little Club and Bottle's. The result was a bold declaration of the samba-jazz sound at its best. On the rhythm section there's the ubiqutuous Milton Banana - Brazil's own Art Blakey - on the drum kit, and Tenório Jr. on piano, who was also ubiquitous until he was "disappeared" and murdered in Argentina while on tour with Vinicius & Toquinho in the mid 70s. Zezinho is on bass, about whom I can't tell you much of anything besides that he frequently played with Erlon Chaves. In the way of horns, there is the brilliant Paulo Moura, whose passing a couple years ago was a huge loss for the world of music. The guy has probably a million album credits of everything from choro to prog rock, but here we get to hear him in the same group with Meirelles, a sax man every bit his equal. A lot of the arrangements are by Cipó, who worked with João Gilberto's first band Garotos da Lua and also contributes one composition and a bit of tenor sax to this record. There are also a few arrangements by Carlos Monteiro de Souza.
This album really highlights the symbiotic relationship between jazz in the United States and samba-jazz, jazz-bossa or just jazz in Brazil. Flows of mutual inspiration were resulting in an amazing amount of innovation and great music on both sides of the equator. But like in many other contexts, the relationship was also lopsided and unequal. The infatuation of American jazz for bossa nova, Brazil's biggest musical export, unfortunately overlooked the immense variety of possibilities presented by other styles of music, such as samba. If US jazz absorbed anything of samba, it was by way of bossa nova's own mutations of it. With apologies for making a simplified, unilineal argument, I'll do it anyway and say that samba was to bossa nova what the blues was to jazz: the latter would not have existed without the former. But the blindness to each other's roots was reciprocal - the blues was not really in the repertoire of musical idioms available to Brazilians either, at least not in the early 60s. Both jazz and bossa were transnational, globalized music long before anyone used that kind of language to describe them, but when you push back into their roots you find yourself at the limits of the culturally specific. In spite of a multitude of sociological and economic similarities, a Mississippi sharecropper and a morro resident in Rio were speaking mutually unintelligible languages.
This is another record where singling out individual tracks seems almost superfluous, but their arrangements of a few classic tunes deserve pointing out. "Naña", one of Moacir Santos' most gorgeous and most recorded compositions, is immediately compelling with Tenório's sparse deconstruction of the chord sequence opening the tune before the lush harmonies of sax, trumpet and flute come in on the main melody. Remind me some time to post Santos' "Coisas" album here, as it's essential listening that makes a lot of the "top 100" lists that people are always making. Incidentally, Moacir Santos played in a completely unrelated combo calling themselves Os Cobras, who made a one-off album in 1960 and then disappeared.
Another ear-catching track is a version of Clifford Brown's signature tune, "The Blues Walk", proving that these guys hold their own on straight bop. The album is infused with bop throughout, especially noticeable in Meirelles's own composition "Quintessence" and "Praia" from Orlann Divo & Roberto Jorge, which still sound fresh. They may start out a bit reverent playing Brown's tune, but the sense of playfulness and fun soon overtakes everything else. This is followed by the Cipó composition "40 graus" which except for its choruses bears more than a passing resemblance to the rocking samba-jazz-bossa that J.T. Meirelles was making with Jorge Ben at the time. It's also the longest track here, clocking in at a whopping four and a half minutes. The record closes with a short pretty composition by Luiz Fernando Freire and Roberto Menescal ("Moça da praia", apparently a favorite theme of the bossa crowd), who also features on acoustic guitar.
Using the original liner notes, translated into French for this pressing, it is possible to reconstruct who plays what solo on which tunes. Anyone who feels so inclined to do so is welcome to compile it and send it to me, and I'll happily post it here. As for me, it's time to get back to chipping away at that writer's block.
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