Conjunto A Voz do Morro – Roda de Samba (1965) {Paulinho da Viola, Elton Medeiros, Zé Keti, Nelson Sargento…}

Jair Costa / Anescar do Salgueiro / Zé Kéti / Nelson Sargento / Elton Medeiros / Paulinho da Viola / José da Cruz

Released 1965 Musidisc Hi-Fi 2114
CD issue Musidisc 777.6099

This is a massive album – historically vital to the history of samba, an amazing and compelling listen; a group made up of “heavy hitters” in samba, and one of the earliest recordings of Paulinho da Viola, who sounds as refined and confident as he would ten years later. Oddly enough, as far as I know the only time it was issued on CD thus far is this Musidisc pressing done by Sonopress Brasil in 1995 (if I am reading the code correctly). The sound quality is as top notch as the music.


This recording has been reissued on vinyl throughout the 70’s with a different cover and credited to Paulinho da Viola (or at least, `Paulinho da Viola and Conjunto Voz de Morro`), which is obviously a way of cashing in on his celebrity status at that time. But in the mid-1960s, Viola was the up and coming youngster of this bunch. Names like Zé Keti, Elton Medeiros, Jair Costa, and Nelson Sargento would have been more familiar to the samba afficionado in ’65. But Paulinho is featured prominently — in the group photo, in the number of songs he sings lead on, and in the listing of his name first in the list on the cover. So this may have been an attempt to give his career a push.. I don’t know, I am an ignorant gringo, and it’s quite likely that a music journalist like Sergio Cabral has written about this album and explained the story and I should probably do my homework and find out more about it.

The compositions are all first-rate. You might notice the tune Elton Medeiros co-wrote with Cartola, one of many that Cartola never recorded himself. There are so many classic tunes here I feel silly trying to single anything out. But Anescarzinho`s “Intriga” and “Vai saudade” leap out at me, as does Mascarada from Zé Keti and Elton Medeiros. Zé Keti’s “Maria”, with Jair Costa on lead voice, is two minutes of perfect samba, with great leave-me-alone ‘dis’ chorus (Saia de meu caminho, eu não te quero mais/aonde eu vou/ Maria vai atrás). Paulinho’s “Coração vulgar” and “Jurar com lágrimas” are both stand-out tunes in his decades-long repertoire of memorable compositions, already demonstrating his special way of writing complex, long melodies and weaving them in a way that sounds deceptively simple. And it is nice to hear him sing in the context of this strong chorus of vocalists providing harmonies, counterpoint, and the whole package. The instruments are all recorded in pristine quality, mixed extremely well, and (of course) played with finesse. I am hoping my friend J.Thyme likes this album but he might be dismayed to know it is sans cuíca. It’s Cuíca-Free. Cuícaless.

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Cachao y su Ritmo Caliente – Descargas: Cuban Jam Sessions (1957)


Cachao y Su Ritmo Caliente
Descargas – Cuban Jam Sessions (1957)

Originally released by Panart as “Descargas: Cuban Jam Sessions In Miniature”. Reissued by Vampi Soul (Spain) using this title and adding extra tracks in 2005


1. Descarga Cubana
2. Goza Me Trompeta
3. Cogele el Golpe
4. Trombon Criollo
5. Malanga Amarilla
6. Pamparana
7. Oye Mi Tres Montuno
8. Controversia de Metales
9. A Gozar Timbero
10. Sorpresa en Flauta
11. Estudio en Trompeta
12. Guajeo de Saxos

These tracks are all massive, amazing, landmark recordings. Israel “Cachao” López pretty much singlehandedly invented the Cuban upright bass by transposing the tumbao rhythm to the instrument. This pre-Revolution recording session is not only amazing 33 minutes of music but also very important historically, as it is one of the earliest examples (maybe THE earliest example) of taking themes from Cuban popular and folk musics and using them as a springboard for out and out jazz improvisation, a technique that would have reverberations far outside the island itself. According to the stories, this record was recorded almost spontaneously in the wee hours of the early morning after the musicians had finished their night’s work playing in the popular clubs and casinos of the day. (One myth even says this album was recorded after-hours at the Tropicana club, which is ridiculous – crystal clear fidelity and wide dynamic range is proof this was recorded at an actual recording studio.)

I have not heard the VampiSoul pressing of this with the extra tracks, and it seems to be out of print. They are a cool enough label but I often find their mastering to be a bit on the loud side — plus, since I know of a few cases where they have been tied up in legal wrangling over royalties, I am doubtful about what master tapes they are using sometimes. This is not a slag against VampiSoul, really: they have made all kinds of extremely rare recordings available that I would otherwise have never heard (several of which have already been featured here). But they don’t give the same kind of TLC to their releases that other reissue labels (like Soundway or Analog Africa) give with their exceptional liner notes, photos, research, and generally great sound.

This pressing was mastered in Cuba in the mid-90s and sounds quite nice to my ears. It makes no real attempt at noise reduction so you get lots of warm tape hiss when things get quiet. Me likes.

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