1962 Philips – P 632.129 L
Mono pressing / Jazz, Latin, Bossa nova
Tamba (Luiz Eça) 2:38
Batida Diferente (Durval Ferreira, Mauricio) 2:00
Influência Do Jazz (Carlos Lyra) 2:25
Samba De Uma Nota Só (Antonio Carlos Jobim, Newton Mendonça) 1:36
Alegria De Viver (Luiz Eça) 1:58
O Barquinho (Roberto Menescal, Ronaldo Boscoli) 2:24
Minha Saudade (João Donato) 1:47
Nós E O Mar (Roberto Menescal, Ronaldo Boscoli) 2:18
Samba Nôvo (Durval Ferriera) 2:47
O Amor Que Acabou (Chico Feitosa, Luiz F. Freire)
Mania De “Snobismo” (Durval Ferreira, Newton Chaves) 2:43
Batucada (Murilo A. Pessoa) 1:54
Ai, Se Eu Pudesse (Roberto Menescal, Ronaldo Boscoli) 1:54
Quem Quizer Encontrar O Amor (Carlos Lyra, Geraldo Vandré) 2:56
Luiz Eça – piano, harmony vocals, lead vocal on “Batucada”
Bebeto Castilho – bass, flute, harmony vocals, lead vocal on “O Amor Que Acabou”
Hélcio Melito – drums, harmony vocals, lead vocals “Quem Quizer Encontrar O Amor”
Producer, artistic director, liner notes – Armando S. Pittigliani
Recording engineer – Célio Sebastião Martins
Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair, manually auditioned, and individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC and mp3 in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.
I officially caught a little Olympic fever, which besides being much more benign than dengue has the added benefit of finally lighting the proverbial fire under my posterior to start highlighting some Brazilian records here again. Sticking with a celebration of things Rio, you can’t get more carioca than the Tamba Trio in 1962. This was such an exciting an optimistic moment in Brazil, and that excitement really comes across on these fourteen blistering bossas. Jazz versions of bossa nova staples became ubiquitous in the North American jazz world, to the point of becoming a fad, a bit of a cliché, and even an annoyance (for some jazz heads at least… I personally find something interesting in even the most routine or ham-fisted treatment of bossa nova, at least in the period following its efflorescence). So for ears accustomed to hearing Shorty Rogers, Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz, or Herbie Mann take stabs at carioca cool, it might be ear-opening to hear “the real deal”, as it were. All the guys in Tamba Trio were phenomenal musicians, but the key that helps you understand the difference between Brazilian jazz bossa and its North American permutations is really Hélcio Milito. As the liner notes say, he is “genuinely, truly, very Brazilian,” and you can a sense of the meaning of that in the way he replicates an entire samba rhythm section in his tiny trap kit right in the opening salvo Tamba, an original written by Luiz Eça (and titled for a type of drum created by Hélcio, which also gave the trio its name). Have a listen here:
During North American jazzistas’ infatuation with bossa nova, one gets the feeling that U.S. drummers were paying close attention to how Brazilian drummers were integrating the complex rhythms of large percussion ensembles into a small combo setting, managing to effortlessly sound like some sort of hepcat eight-armed Hindu drum deity. Although I won’t place a wager on this, I feel like I can usually tell when a drummer on North American jazz records is not actually Brazilian (i.e. most of the time) – there are certain nuances in the syncopation and accents that even the best just weren’t able to wrap their heads around.
Naturally there is a lot of cross-fertilization here too. At 33 years old, Hélcio was already a veteran, having played with bandleaders like Djalma Ferreira, studied with North American percussionist Henry Miller, toured Latin America with Ary Barroso’s orchestra and the United States with Luiz Bonfa. While in the US he also performed with Sammy Davis Jr. Around the time of this album, he had been studying music with Moacir Santos. I’m not really a music historian (I just play one on the internet) but I will make an assumption that Hélio incorporated some new techniques he picked up abroad interacting with North American musicians, like his incredible brush work. Hélcio stayed with this original incarnation of Tamba Trio just long enough to produce three great albums, then left as his career had him shuttling back and forth between the US and Brazil, occasionally joining his old compadres for records and tours. He also contributed soundtrack work for films by the vaunted Leon Hirzsman, Ruy Guerra, and Joaquim Pedro de Andrade.
The other members of the trio are no slouches either, of course. Luiz Eça, for all intents and purposes the leader of the group, is a revelation on the piano. I want to call him the Brazilian Horace Silver but I don’t really have a sophisticated argument to back that up. In any case he plays more ‘blue’ notes in that opening track than we’re accustomed to hear in Brazilian music. One of the qualities of this debut LP could also be a shortcoming from another point of view: all of its fourteen songs are under 3 minutes, and many of them under 2 (which is pretty punk rock of them – see how ahead of the curve they were?). So on the one hand, you’ll never be bored by a long-winded solo, on the other hand you might actually have a craving for some long-winded solos. At the very least I would have loved to hear Eça cut loose on some of these tunes. Of course I would love to hear Bebeto cut loose more on the flute as well, but he is already busy defying the laws of physics by being both the bassist and flautist. The liner notes enlighten us that this was achieved by the technological innovation of “playback,” otherwise known to us moderns as over-dubbing. Later on, Tamba Trio would become a quartet so that Bebeto could focus exclusively on being a reed man.
Did I just use the word “modern”? It is an important word for this record. I know because producer Armando S. Pittigliani uses it about fifty times in his liner notes. The country had just emerged from president Juscelino Kubitschek’s promise of 50 years of modernization in 5, with progressive elements looking forward to the sweeping reforms of Goulart that threatened the elites enough to trigger a military intervention to “restore democracy”, with them ultimately deciding the people weren’t ready for democracy and it would simply have to wait another twenty or so years. The guys in Tamba Trio had been working together for several years by now, backing singers like Maysa and Leny Andrade since the beginnings of bossa nova. But when they christened themselves with a proper name, debuted under it at the venerable Bottle’s nightclub, and prepared to launch a career as one of the first “serious” instrumental ensembles (as opposed to instrumental music intended for dancing), they were also being positioned as musical ambassadors of Brazil’s modernity. The liner notes recount a rapid-fire mini-tour of New York, Minneapolis, and Chicago in the lead up to this record, and discuss plans to release the album in the United States, Argentina, France, and the Netherlands. This didn’t quite happen. Although the info at my disposal is probably not exhaustive, it appears that this record got a release in Mexico in ’66 (where there was a huge enclave of artists and intellectuals seeking respite from the military takeover of Brazil), with the promised Netherlands release coming only in 1968, where it got a completely different cover and track sequence (shown on the right).
There were other instrumental groups exploring the fertile territory of jazz bossa before them – Walter Wanderley’s records come to mind. But I suppose they were still oriented or at least marketed as upbeat ‘dance’ records and without the high-art inclinations of the Tamba Trio format, so Pittigliani is probably justified in his claim of primogeniture, because these guys did open the door that many other trios would walk through. The following years would see a flurry (or slurry) of great recordings by the Zimbo Trio, Milton Banana Trio, Som Três and others. It should be noted that their music isn’t strictly instrumental either, and that all of the members had very fine voices. Many of the tunes feature wordless vocalizations in impeccable layered harmonies, not really of a scat-singing variety, and more like accompaniment. Apparently they used to wear lapel mics on stage for this purpose, which I can only imagine sounded pretty horrible. There are three numbers here that feature a solo vocalist (with the other two on harmonies). I am especially fond of Bebeto’s performance on O Amor Que Acabou, the timbre of his voice is just perfect:
If the mood strikes me, I will probably be sharing the other two records from the original Tamba Trio before too much time elapses. They’re all good, but there is something especially fresh and original about this one that makes it really stand out. I hope you enjoy it.