Carmélia Alves – Eu Sou o Baião (1943-1954)

 

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Carmélia Alves
Eu Sou O Baião
Revivendo RVD 213
Released 2004

Sabiá na Gaiola (1950) with Conjunto Continental
(Hervê Cordovil – Mario Vieira)
Deixei de Sofrer (1943) with Benedicto Lacerda e Seu Conjunto
(Horondino Silva – Popeye do Pandeiro)
Saia de Bico (1950) with Trio Melodia and Conjunto Continental
(Traditional, arranged by João de Barro)
Esta Noite Serenô (1951) from the film “Meu Destino é Pecar”
(Hervê Cordovil)
Eh! Boi (1951) with Orquestra Continental
(Hervê Cordovil)
Trépa no Coqueiro (1950) with Orquestra Copacabana
(Ari Kerner)
Adeus, Adeus Morena (1951) with Vero e Seu Conjunto
(Manézinho Araújo, Hervê Cordovil)
Maria Joana (1952) with Sivuca
(Luiz Bandeira)
Carreteiro (1953) with Orquestra Continental
Piratini, Caco Velho
Adeus, Maria Fulô  (1951) with Jimmy Lester
Humberto Teixeira, Sivuca
Cabeça Inchada  (1951) with Orquestra Cotinental from the film Uma aventura no Rio
Hervê Cordovil
Tic-Tac do Meu Relógio (1949)Carmélia Alves & Quarteto de Bronze with “Fats” Elpidio e Seu Ritmo
Dunga
O Baião em Paris (1951) with Vero e Seu Conjunto
Humberto Teixeira
Quem Dorme no Ponto é Chauffeur (1943) with Benedicto Lacerda e Seu Conjunto
Assis Valente
Eu Sou o Baião (1952) with Vero e Seu Conjunto
Humberto Teixeira
Diga Que Sim (1949) with “Fats” Elpidio e Seu Ritmo
Roberto Martins, Ari Monteiro
O Trem Chegou (1950) Carmélia Alves & Trio Melodia with Conjunto Continental
Hervê Cordovil
Tristezas do Jeca (1952) Carmélia Alves & Trio Melodia with Bittencourt e Seu Conjunto
Angelino de Oliveira
Baião da Garoa (1954) Carmélia Alves & Trio Melodia with Quinteto Continental
Hervê Cordovil, Luiz Gonzaga
Trem Ô-Lá-Lá (1950) with Orquestra Copacabana
Lauro Maia, Humberto Teixeira
Coração Magoado (1950) with Severinio Araújo e Sua Orquestra Tabajara
(Roberto Martins)

The first festa junina post of 2016 is arriving rather late to the blog, and has the audacity to feature a singer from Rio rather than the Nordeste.  Don’t worry though, Carmélia Alves has her bonafides, and was known as the Queen of Baião until her death in 2012. On this collection you’ll hear her performing with Sivuca and his band, whom she is credited with having “discovered,” and the repertoire is peppered with songs penned by Humberto Teixeira and even one from Gonzaga.  As you can hear above, though, she began her career as a samba singer in the mold of Carmen Miranda.   With a background as a singer on the radio, in nightclubs, and as a backing vocalist for others (principally Benedicto Lacerda), her first record in 1943 was actually self-financed, with the musicians donating their time.  It also featureed Elizeth Cardoso, Cyro Monteiro and Nélson Gonçalves singing backing in the coro before they were famous.   All of the songs recorded at that session were sambas, and two of them are featured here.  The lean years of the war meant that even major artists were not recording much, and Carmélia would not record again until 1949.  She spent that time traveling with her husband Jimmy Lester (his “crooner” name, as he performed American songs at the Copacabana Palace, where they met), and performing in various Brazilian cities.  When she moved back to Rio and began recording again, her repertoire included baião, rancheira, and toada numbers alongside samba, marcha, and choro.  If nothing else, this Revivendo collection highlights a point that historian Bryan McCann has pointed out: in the period before the dawn of bossa nova, the baião was a tremendously popular genre and maybe even a contender for a “national” music style, rather than being relegated to a kind of regionalist musical ghetto that always seems one step away from “folklore.”  Samba and MPB singers would continue to draw inspiration from baião and the other rhythms that comprise forró – Clara Nunes always made it a point to include a Northeastern number on nearly all her records from the 70s onward, for example.  But those are nods to a kind of spiritual-musical ‘roots’ periodically rediscovered in that storied region.  In the period on this CD, baião could still be performed by any of the popular bands or singers of the day right alongside the latest sambas, in fashionable ballrooms and adorned with pearls, without necessarily having to dress it up in the leather-hats-and-bandolier costumes of the arid northeastern backlands.

Of her sambas, there are only a few here, but they include Diga que sim from 1949, Coração magoado from 1950, and Deixa de sofrer  and Quem dorme no ponto é chauffer,  both from that first 1943 session. The latter was penned by Assis Valente and reportedly is the origin of the slang phrase derived from the title.  There is the choro composition Tic-tac do meu relógio.  There is the balanceio track Trépa no coqueiro, a huge hit which my friend Bertha insists is a classic but which I think could be included in a David Lynch film as a repeating theme meant to drive the audience slightly bonkers. All of these are nicely placed to add some variety to the baião and toada numbers that make up the bulk of the disc.  Of these, a great deal were written for her by Hervê Cordovil, a pianist and composer from Minas Gerais whose first success with Carmélia was when she was featured performing his Cabeça inchada in the film Uma aventura no Rio in 1949.  The song was quickly rerecorded by a host of other artistsand further Hervê and Carmélia pairings soon followed, including Sabiá na gaiola, which opens this set and is an homage to one of Brazil’s most colorful and iconic songbirds.  You might find that some of the earlier baião numbers here, played by radio orchestras, sound rather stiff and restrained if you are used to the more flowing and freewheeling small combos from the Northeast, as found on recordings by Gonzaga or Jackson do Pandeiro.  One gets the feeling that the musicians are sticking closely to their charts and playing in an idiom with which they might be somewhat unfamiliar.  That makes the tracks with Sivuca here all the more special.  Apparently Carmélia discovered him while performing for Rádio Jornal in Recife (a station which is still going, although it was mostly news and talk programs when I lived there), and convinced him to relocate to Rio and try his luck down there.   From the first appregio runs of Maria Joana, everything sounds more relaxed, the band fast and loose, and Sivuca contributing some harmonies and regional exclamations (ôxente!).  Clocking in at under 2 and 1/2 minutes, it smokes.  Have a listen here, where it is followed by another and more famous track featuring Sivuca, Adeus Maria Fulô:

Adeus, Maria Fulô has had quite an interesting life.  The version above is the original from 1951.  (Purist gadfly commentary: note the prominent use of the electric guitar in this recording. Isn’t it great?)  Carmélia and her husband spent a great deal of the 1950s and 60s performing all over the world – South and Central America, Russia, Europe, where she eventually lived for quite a long time.  At some point she befriended Miriam Makeba, who she says learned to speak perfect Portuguese and rerecorded the song in 1967, having a big hit with it in South Africa and Europe.  Let’s have a listen to her version:

The following year, the song also appeared as a stand-out cut on the breakthrough record by Tropicália firebrands Os Mutantes.  They’ve traded in the accordion for a marimba and xylophone and deconstructed it, as they were prone to do.  Here is their 1968 recording of it:

And, what the hell, one more for good measure.  To come full circle,  Gal Costa, once a Tropicalísta but now a respectable MPB artist, recorded a version with Sivuca for a record paying tribute to Humberto Teixeira in 2003.  Here’s their respectful rerecording which contains zero actual surprises apart from some nice jazz chord inversions on the piano

 

Teixeira also wrote O baião em Paris, taking the genre international in song several years before they would actually start touring extensively in Europe.  He also wrote the tune that ceded a title for this collection, Eu sou o baião, which is  lovely (as you can here in the first playlist up at the top of the page).

If I have a complaint about this collection, it’s that it doesn’t quite do justice to Carmélia Alves’ versatility.  It is understandable that Revivendo would want to focus on baião (she was the Queen, after all).  But the collection is only 58 minutes long , so there is definitely room here for some more music.  It would have been nice for them to include a few of Capiba’s frevos that she recorded in the early 50s, and she continued recording great samba even as she began to focus on (or be pigeonholed into) “regional music” of the Nordeste during the period covered here.  Just because you can stuff a CD with 74 or 80 minutes of audio doesn’t always mean you should, but in Carmélia’s case I wish they had.  Even so, this is a pretty solid collection spanning the first decade or so of her long career.   Highly recommended!

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3 Comments

  1. Great! Thanks a lot for flac!

  2. Nice one Flabber. One of my favourite version of ‘Adeus Maria Fulo’ is by Claudette Soares
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQQioyZkivw
    Keep up the great work!

    • Yeah that’s got to be the funkiest version out there! I would have added it to the post but it’s already too long and I bet there’s a hundred versions.

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