Jamelão – A Voz do Samba Vol. 2 (2002)

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Jamelão
A Voz do Samba, Volume 2
2002 Warner Brasil (092745933-2)


1. Vingança
2. Nervos de aço
3. Ela disse-me assim
4. Exemplo
5. Volta
6. Nunca
7. Meu natal
8. Torre de babel
9. Meu barraco
10. Loucura
11. Cadeira vazia
12. Esses moços (Pobres moços)
13. Quem há de dizer
14. Sozinha

All songs composed by Lupicínio Rodrigues, with the following tracks featuring co-authors: “Meu Barraco” with Leduvy de Pina; “Cadeira Vazia”  and “Quam Há De Dizer”  with Alcides Gonçalves.

Original recordings spanning from 1959 to 1987.

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In my last post on Jamelão, Volume 1 of this anthology, I was pretty emphatic in my disinterest for hearing an entire hour of samba-enredos back to back, as well as my belief that the record didn’t really do justice to Jamelão.  The man himself would probably have disagreed with me; at least regarding the first part of this complaint, because he was in fact exalted as a master of the form of samba enredo.  But I’ll continue to stand by the second half of my gripe:  the “Jamelão I know and love” is right here on THIS disc, which begins in the 1950s and is comprised entirely of compositions from his friend Lupicínio Rodrigues.  The 50s were an auspicious time for Jamelão:  he moved from the Sintér label to Discos Continental and began working with the wonderful Orchestra Tabajara, with whom he criss-crossed Brazil and made it as far as France on tour.  It was while touring with Tabajara that he crossed paths with Lupicínio in Porto Alegre, and soon after the two began a partnership that would make their names practically synonymous with each other.  A great many artists have recorded memorable versions of Lupicínios work, some preceding Jamelão like Orlando Silva and Francisco Alves, and many who followed him – two tracks on this collection, “Nervos de aço” and “Volta” both received impressive renditions by Paulinho da Viola and Gal Costa, respectively, which I happened to be listening to recently because I have become fixated on the magical year of 1973 for some reason.  The list of other renditions of these tunes would doubtless be quite large, but it was the voice of Jamelão that made Lupicínio Rodrigues a household name and etched him in the collective consciousness.  Orchestra Tabajara, who had relocated from Paraiba to Rio right about the time Jamelão approached them with songs to record, pull off some swinging performances with inventive arrangements.  Pianist and bandleader Severino Araújo,  could give the ubiquitous Maestro Gaya a run for his money.  The brass charts are all delicious, and check out the jazzy interplay on “Vingança” or “Meu barraco.”  

This collection is so good that I even like the tracks recorded in the 1980s, so often a decade of embarrassment for artists whose careers began elsewhere in time.   As is sadly typical of Brazilian reissues, this collection is sparse on detailed notes, apart from a brief text written by the stalwart Tarik de Souza.   Seems like typical record label suits skimping on the artistic patrimony of a giant like Jamelão who deserves better.  The dodgy mastering job is credited to a generic “Oficína de Áudio e Video”, and some of the cuts from the 60s sound like they had reverb added to them.   This was probably done to give more continuity to the collection – indeed, it is hard to distinguish what decade each song was recorded in without peeking at the credits – but this is also due as much to the infallible integrity of Jamelão and Orchestra Tabajara, without the “help” of any digital enhancement.   


Sometime this year I will post some of the Continental LPs I have Jamelão. I posted about the first disc in this series here.  And you can find more of his stuff at Orfãos do Loronix.

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Jamelão – A Voz do Samba, Volume 1 (2002)

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Jamelão
A Voz do Samba, Volume 1
2002 Warner Music (092745932-2)
Recordings from 1974-76
Originally issued as a 3-CD boxset in 1997

1 Apoteose ao samba     (Mano Décio, Silas de Oliveira)
2 Casa grande e senzala     (Zagaia, Comprido, Leléo)
3 Macunaíma     (Norival Reis, David Corrêa)
4 Quatro séculos de paixão     (Arroz, Graúna)
5 Cântico à natureza     (A. Lourenço, Jamelão, Nelson Sargento)
6 Dona Bêja – Feiticeira do Araxá     (Aurinho da Ilha)
7 O grande presidente      (Padeirinho)
8 Rio Antigo      (Cícero dos Santos, Pelado da Mangueira, Hélio Turco)
9 Zaquia Jorge, a estrela do subúrbio, vedete de Madureira     (Avarese)
10 Rio Grande do Sul na festa do preto fôrro      (Nilo Mendes, Dario Marciano)
11 No reino da mãe de ouro      (Talito, Rubens da Mangueira)
12 Terra de Caruaru      (Sidney da Conceição, Corvina)
13 Festa do Círio de Nazaré      (Nilo Mendes, Aderbal Moreira, Dario Marciano)
14 Mangueira em tempo de folclore     (Jajá, Manoel, Preto Rico)     
I am not ideologically committed to the idea of a chronology retrospective approach to box sets or collections, but it does have its merits.  I just don’t get
the sense of starting out with tracks taken exclusively from the years 1974-76, squarely in the middle of Jamelão’s prolific career.  That is what this collection, originally released as three discs together and then reissued separately,  has chosen for reasons that elude me.  Is it because the 70s “samba revival” production value is more accessible to our contemporary ears than the classic, larger band/orchestra style in which he made his first hits?   It could be, but if so then it’s a pretty weak argument.

Because what is beguiling about this is not really the chronology but the emphasis:   although Jamelão is renowned as the ultimate interpreter of the sambas written by his friend Lupicínio Rodriguez, this first disc is entirely comprised of samba enredo (none of which are associated with Lupicínio).

Now a while back I had a comment from a blog reader about how they couldn’t handle an entire album of partido alto all at once.  While I personally could listen to partido alto all day long, I know how they feel – because I feel that way about samba enredo.  For those unfamiliar, samba enredo  is the style of didactic story-song that is popular during carnival and during the huge open rehearsals leading up to it.  Part of that popularity is of course the talent of the composers, who get a little extra motivation in the big prizes, awards, and accolades involve, but it is also in the spectacle of huge production that will happen once and once only – something that does not necessarily transfer its excitement to a petroleum-based disc.  When Rio’s samba schools decide on an annual theme, it falls to the carnavalescos, the artists and designers of costumes and floats, to decide how to interpret it and present something new and original, reflecting the theme from a different angle than all the other samba schools, and to collaborate with the choreographers and musicians and sambistas to make it all cohere.  Truly a marvel of creative coordination, wouldn’t you say?  Samba writers give it their all, because if the affiliated samba school gets top rankings at the concursos or showcase competitions, it means a lot both for the school and for whichever singer and composer helped them win a new title.  While you might find humor and critique tucked away in the selections, what predominates are celebratory anthems of one or another variety of nationalism.   On this collection we have a few songs praising famous literary works (Casa Grande e Senzala, Macunaíma), politicians (O Grande Presidente), geographic areas, cities or states (Rio Antigo, Terra de Caruarú, Rio Grande do Sul Na Festa do Preto Fôrro), and religious or mystical themes (Festa do Círio de Nazaré), or famous prostitutes (Dona Bêja).  Interestingly, to get back on the subject of chronology, a few of these sambas actually debuted decades before the recordings on this collection were made.  O Grande Presidente, a praise song for the populist and popular, authoritarian “man of the people” Getulio Vargas, was featured in 1956’s carnival, a year and a half after his legendary and dramatic suicide.

It is worth pointing out that while Jamelão’s name is forever linked with the green and pink colors of his beloved Mangueira,  a few of the other prominent samba schools are represented here either through affiliated sambista composers or through the song having featured in a particular school’s carnaval presentation.  (Not all samba composers, nor all singers for that matter, don’t always work exclusively with one samba school.)   The opening track, which happens to be my favorite on the whole disc, Apoteose ao samba, is written by Silas de Oliveira and Mano Décio of the Império Serrano samba school, both of whom feature on the lovely Encontro Com a Velha Guarda album too.  Portela and Estácio de Sá also get some entries here.

So perhaps the logic of this release was to start the collection by highlighting Jamelão as a grand figure of carnaval across several generations.  Which, of course, he was. The next two volumes focus on his role as interpreter of Lupicínio Rodrigues’ sambas, and as a crooner of romantic samba, respectively.  Well at least they left us something to look forward to.

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Os Partideiros – Sambas do Partido Alto (1970)

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OS PARTIDEIROS
Sambas do Partido Alto
1970 Beverley  BLP 80382
Originally released on Copacabana Records
Mono recording

“Partido alto e o samba de roda, improvisado e levado em tempo médio.
Com o reqeubrar das cabrochas vai até o sol raiar.
É acompanhado de pandeiro, agogô, reco-reco, prato de louça etc
Neste LP atuam os maiores partidieros das escolas de samba tais como:

Da Mangueira:  Xangô e Preto Rico
Do Salgueiro – Geraldo Babão e Roberto Ribeiro
Do Império Serrano – Silas de Oliveira, Edgard e Jorginho
Da Portela – Cabana e Casquinha”

PORTELA

1. A Paz do Coreção  (vocal – Cabana)
2. Barracão Número Seis  (vocal – Cabana)
3. Iaiá Sambou  (vocal – Casquinha)

IMPÉRIO SERRANO

4. Na Água do Rio  (vocal – Silas)
5. Que Samba É Esse  (vocal – Jorginho)
6. Canela Fina  (vocal – Edgard)

SALGUEIRO

7. Lola Crioula  (vocal – Geraldo Babão)
8. Te Dou Pancada  (vocal – Os Partideiros)
9. Velhos Tempos  (vocal – Roberto Ribeiro)

MANGUEIRA

10. Eu Vi Quem Foi  (vocal – Preto Rico)
11. Recordação De Um Batuqueiro  (vocal – Xangô da Mangueira)
12. Partido da Remandiola  (vocal – Xangô da Mangueira)

Coordinated by Moacyr Silva
Production assistant: Waldomiro João de Oliveira
Recording technician:  Norival Reis
Recorded at Continental Rio studio

Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.


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“Todo batuqueiro gosta de um bom
partido alto
Seja ele lá no morro ou na
cidade, no asfalto.”
Cascinha, Iaiá sambou

“Quem não é de samba / é melhor se despedir…”
Roberto Ribeiro, Velhos tempos

A solid and ceaselessly propulsive album of partido-alto from singers and composers of four of Rio’s prestigious samba schools:  Portela, Império
Serrano, Salgueiro, and Mangueira.  Of particular note is that the album features several singers here who would have successful recording careers during the 70s but had yet to record LPs under their own name – Xangô da Mangueira, Jorginho do Império, and especially Roberto Ribeiro would all grow in stature as the decade went on.  Also some excellent contributions from Cascinha, Geraldo Babão, and Silas de Oliveira.  A fun trivia fact about Silas – he had been in the Brazilian army and was on the passenger ship Itagiba traveling from Rio en route to Olinda (where he was stationed) when it was torpedoed by a German submarine, an incident which directly led to Brazil’s entry into WWII.  Lot’s of people died; obviously Silas de Oliveira survived, and I for one am glad.

With each of the samba schools only offering up three choice compositions, you can imagine that they don’t disappoint.  The mighty Portela starts things off with “A Paz de Coração,” sung by Cabana in what could serve as a didactic lesson on how to conduct a perfect partido alto.  Casquinha’s “Iaiá Sambou” is a classic, with it’s story of broken high-heel shoes and dancing, as well as a shout-out to Clementina de Jesus, who “in spite of her age, still seems like a young woman.”  The lyrics also give a snapshot narrative of partido alto coming down from the hills, o morro (today simply referred to as favelas, after Rio’s historic Morro da Favela), to the center of the city, reflecting samba’s historical trajectory from “marginal” to ubiquity and acceptance by the elite.  It has two beautiful verses in sequence, the first one quoted above saying that every musician (drummer, specifically) loves a good partido alto and it doesn’t matter where it is (seja no morro ou asfalto);  He follows this by singing that partido alto in the morro is a thing totally natural, but to have one in the city is almost radical.  To my ears this communicates something that, while perhaps seeming superficially a contradiction, is an intentionally two-headed, ambiguous message. That for the musicians, it didn’t matter where they played, as long as the music was good; but for the city’s elite who lived downtown, samba was still a novelty with overtones of excitement and even danger, and not something natural.  The idea confirms something Donga once famously said, but also adds a different shading to it.  Donga had said (and I’m paraphrasing, because I am essentially lazy) that the notion that samba was something solely created or originating in the hills was a myth: wherever there was a party with a group of people playing samba music, they were there, no matter if it was on the morro or in the business district.  Not to belabor the point, but these expressions were kind of challenging the way samba was sometimes portrayed as inhabiting a world apart, ‘a black thing’ of the slums, that was slowly allowed to proliferate through the city perhaps by the benevolence of a newly-enlightened elite.

For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, I am particularly fond of the tunes from Império Serrano.  They start out with Águas Do Rio which features Silas on vocal, who is better known as a composer of famous samba-enredos, in particular in partnership with Mano Décio da Viola – who was, incidentally, the father of Jorginho who takes over the vocals on the next tune.  “Que Samba É Esse” is wonderful and in fact beats the version recorded by Xangô da Mangueira on his album “O Rei de Partido Alto” a few years later.  Note the name-checking that goes on, including João da Baiana and Martinho da Vila.  I love the way he drags out certain words in phrases, inserts pauses and emphasizes the accented syllable of certain words to give the effect of falling slightly behind the beat. Listening to him sing is like watching a Slinky undulate down a flight of stairs:

 Tendo viola afinada
Um surdo na mar…cação
Aí a mulata levanta poeira do chão
Fica bom, fica bom!

Serrano Império continues to kick up dust and agitate the dance floor, levantando poeira into their final tune “Canela Fina,” cooking up a slower-paced partido alto written and sung by Edgard Cardoso Barbosa, about whom I know nothing.

The sweet-voiced Geraldo Babão starts out Salgueiro’s selections with “Lola Crioula.”  Like Silas de Oliveira, Babão also composed some famous samba-enredos like “Chico Rei” and “A História do Carnaval Carioca” in the 1960s.  Like many partido altos the lyrics are a variation on a single verse, this time once again echoing the theme of “from the morro to the city,” this time for carnival:  Lola crioula na passarela (Vem ver, vem ver) ; Sacudindo com tudo que é dela (Vem ver, vem ver!) / Todo ano ela desfila / Representando a favela / A moçada compra ingresso / Pra ver o gingado dela “tem dendê, tem dendê  as cadeiras na nega tem dendê”.

The song “Te Dou Pancada” is a catchy bit of reprehensible misogyny that is better left uncommented upon, if truth be told.  I find it kind of ironic that it is the one track here that does not credit any individual for the vocal (leaving it only as “Os Partideiros”) almost as if nobody wanted their name on it.   Salgueiro redeem themselves, however, with the lovely Velhos Tempos, written by Aurinho da Ilha and interpreted by Roberto Ribeiro who manages to swagger with saudade while remembering the old days of Praça Onze, a location that was kind of ground zero for carioca samba.

Mangueira’s songs are all excellent but that kind of goes without saying.  The first is from Preto Rico, one-time Diretor de Harmonia and composer of the sambas like “Velha baiana” and “Mangueira em tempos de folclore.”  This is followed by two songs from Xangô da Mangueira who followed Preto Rico as Diretor in Mangueira.  I sang Xangô’s praises on another post but I will reiterate what a badass he was here.  “Recordação de um Batuqueiro” is one of his famous sambas, played here a little faster than it would be on his first LP.  “Partido de Remandiola” doesn’t appear on any of Xangô’s albums that I have and this might be it’s only appearance on record.  Both tracks are excellent although Xangô’s vocal is a bit muffled, either a technical issue with the recording or maybe he just wasn’t as comfortable in a studio yet as he would be in a few years.

Speaking of studios and lapsing into technobabble for a moment, my copy of this is a Beverly reissue of the Copacabana release.  Almost certainly it was a 1970s reissue, and I believe Beverly was owned by Copacabana and was sort of their budget-line reissue imprint.  You might notice some tape wow-and-flutter on the first few tracks, which is a bit disheartening – to think that only a few years down the road, the master tapes were already borked.  Or, perhaps, the tapes were damaged before even the first pressing, I don’t know ‘cus I haven’t heard an original.  Also, although this is a mono recording, this Beverly is not a true mono pressing: when I attempted a ‘fold down’ for this digitalization, it resulted in some ugly phase cancellation and the lost of just about all the upper-frequency transients.  So, better to leave it in ‘false stereo’.

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Xangô da Mangueira – Rei do Partido Alto (1972)

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 Xangô da Mangueira
O Rei do Partido Alto
Released 1972 on Copacabana (CLP 11701)
Reissue 2011 Discos Cobacabana-EMI

1. Moro na Roça
2. Quando vim de Minas
3. Se o Pagode é Partido
4. Cheguei no Samba
5.Que Samba é Esse
6. Se Tudo Correr Bem
7. Pequenininho
8. Recordação de um Batuqueiro
9. Quem não te Conhece é que te Compra (Tiro no Escuro)
10. Arigó
11. Diretor de Harmonia
12. Olha o partido

Que samba esse que acabou de chegar?
É partido-alto, mas é pra quem sabe improvisar

A great record by one of the under-heralded sambistas, Xangô da Mangueira aka Olivéirio Ferreira.  Every track is a winner, and this has been one of the most-played samba records in my stash since I got it, often getting played twice in a row which is something I NEVER do.   A friend of Paulo da Portela, he passed through the samba schools of Portela, Lira do Amor (now defunct) and Mangueira.  This record has probably the biggest concentration of Xangô’s better-known compositions that he recorded in one place.  Well-known because they have been recorded by the likes of Clara Nunes, Martinho da Vila, Elza Soares, Beth Carvalho, Roberto Ribeiro and others since the 1970s heyday of “samba de raiz.”  The record lopes along in an old-school pagode, roda de samba vibe and is one of the best partido-alto records you’re likely to hear.

Xangô cultivated a style that was, in his own words, “bem
sacudido, bem jongo,” that is to say laying down a good solid groove: animated, danceable, strongly rooted in the batucada.  The first voice you hear on the record doesn’t actually belong to him, but to Jorge Zagaia, his singing partner on  three of the partido alto tunes here:  Mora Na Roça, Pequenininho, and Diretor de Harmonio, which Zagaia also wrote in homage of his friend.  Scholars and even sambistas don’t have a clear-cut definition of the subgenre in any way that can be condensed into a paragraph, but all agree that it has a long pedigree, going back to the Bantu-language presence in Brazil and the sambas de umbigada, jongo, and the lundu, existing in some form or another as a distinguishable dance and music when samba first urbanized in the early twentieth century.  The name itself connotes an “elite” of samba, something you have to be damn good to even attempt, so you had best be prepared before you enter into the roda de samba.  It’s key distinctive traits were improvised verses with a repeated group chorus or refrain, a refrãozinho really, sung in direct response and typically changing to accommodate the theme elaborated by the lead singer.  Sometimes you  have more than one singer taking the lead, which along with the element of improvisation places partido-alto in a continuum with northeastern traditions like the repentistas or emboladores

 There were set compositions in the style in the 1930s from the likes of Noel Rosa, Donga and Pixinguinha.  According to some of its best practitioners, partido-alto had changed considerably by the 1970s, with Aniceto of Império Serrano saying “what we’re all singing today is a lesser thing (samba menor) and we are just calling it partido alto.”  His traditionalism was probably a bit overstated for effect – on the best of the 1970s examples, you can still get the sense of spontaneity and call-and-response.  But there is no doubt that the limitations of the record business, and even the medium of electronic sound reproduction itself, give us only a small taste of what went on in those old rodas de samba.  To paraphrase Aniceto again: partido-alto had a set time to start, but no set time to end.  It could go on and on without a break until eventually the energy runs out.. Then someone will start it up again with a different melody and theme.  You get a good sense of this watching the tragically brief Hirzman documentary “Partido Alto”, which has finally received a restoration (so I can finally ditch my copy transferred from an old VHS tape).   In fact listening to Candeia hold court in the first part of that short film is probably the best class on partido-alto you could wish for, notwithstanding his cara brabo.  Interested people would also do well to listen Candeia’s albums that have a couple extended cuts of partido-alto, and perhaps most especially the first record made by the group Partido em 5 (which also featured Candeia).   

A good number of the tunes on Rei do Partido-Alto all begin with a similar cavaquinho riff, and it doesn’t take much imagination to hear how, with a little variation in rhythm, most of these songs could have been strung together and most likely were at one point.  But while there may be some artifice in squeezing that experience into a three-minute composition, you won’t hear any complaints from me about gems like “Diretor de Harmonia.”  Xangô was in fact the director of harmony for the Mangueira samba school, a role of no small consequence:  the first office-holder of Diretor de Harmonia was none other than Cartola.  

             Although written by Zagaia it works as autobiography and a bit of braggadocio (Eu sou o samba em pessoa) .  Other songs here take the same approach, with concise declarative lines placing the singer inside the universe of samba:  “Já cantei muito samba / Já foi batuqueiro / E na roda de samba / Foi diretor de pandeiro” (in Recordação de Batuqeiro).  There are so many great verses scattered around the album that evoke a lifetime seduced by samba, its physicality while lived out daily at every opportunity:  “Se o pagode é partido/ Ela conta comigo/ Eu vou lá/ Eu vou em casa buscar

meu pandeiro/ Eu sou partideiro/ Não posso faltar.”  And later,  “Senhora dona da casa / me dê licença pra entrar / Fui em casa buscar meu pandeiro / Sou partideiro / não posso faltar.”  Remembering hanging out with Donga and João da Baiana.  Or going out for a night of samba with a girl on your arm and a desire to “show these guys what I’m made of”

Sem meu tamborim não fico
Sem minha cabrocha não vou
Quero mostrar a esses caras
Quero mostrar quem eu sou

(from Cheguei no samba)

This is the convivência of samba that Xangô da Mangueira so capably communicates; the sort of false-cognate in English “conviviality” doesn’t really get to it, because its not just about a festive atmosphere but about the intimacy of social relations and familiarity of people, many of whom earn their livelihood at jobs they don’t care much to talk about, because what they really for is this, the nightlife of music and poetry and friendship that characterized these scenes.   Xangô was a retired security guard by this point; Candeia had been a policeman, a job which left him in a wheelchair for life; Nelson Cavaquinho had been in the Policia Militar, apparently not a very good policeman either, prone to losing himself in local bars during his shifts and losing track of the battalion’s horses.  When you hear sambistas recount their lives, they may tell stories about the different jobs they’ve held but you rarely get the sense that they identified with them much – their identity was constituted in the botequim and the roda-de-samba, in the hours of leisure when their creative energy was allowed free play. 

Probably the biggest ‘hit’ here is “Quando Vim de Minas,” which became immortalized by Clara Nunes.  Xangô was a native carioca but Clara was, of course, from Minas Gerais so the song is almost an anthem for her.  An unforgettable melody and refrain, and lyrics that  invoke images of the slaves put to work in diamond and gold mines who smuggled out gold dust under their fingernails or in religious statues.  It’s the kind of ambiguity that give samba and other kinds of popular music an edge of critique and subversion. 

Xangô da Mangueira returned to performing and recording for a while before he passed away a few years ago at the age of 85.  He recorded a CD that was sold through a website set up by someone in his circle, maybe his family.  And we are lucky enough to have a ‘depoimento’ in the form of an interview-performance (ala MPB Especial format) that was filmed at the Múseo do Estado in the neighborhood of Catete, Rio.  This is a cool place, by the way, if you ever have the chance to visit it; It also has a movie theater showing Brazilian and international independent films.  (One of the things I really like about Rio is the number of independent movie theatres, all of them located conveniently close to Metro stations.  Something a lot of cities in Brazil sorely lack — Recife, hello?)  I’ve linked to the hour-long film HERE.  It’s not exactly riveting stuff but worth a look if you are enjoying this record.  Xangô’s voice is considerably more rouca or hoarse, and he has to teach his backing musicians a few numbers on the spot.   He tells some good stories, about how he gained his nickname, dispelling the appearance of him being some formidable pai-de-santo by relating how he received the name while working in a textile factory and there was a day when a guy was just giving out nicknames to anyone who didn’t have them.  He talks about his first tentative experiences singing samba on the last train leaving the downtown area, where all the sambistas typically met up to commute back to their homes in the periphery or in the morros, when each person would take turns singing.  He talks about sambas roots in improvisation, and in marginality; of working and socializing around Rua de Santana and Praça Onze.   And of advice he got when he first assumed an official position in a samba school:  “There are two things about samba: education and humility,” a value placed on knowing your art form, of a kind of sophisticated worldliness, coupled with the respect for the different roles in a samba school and the people who fill them, the pastores and the musicians, without which carnival would be impossible.  Well it seems Mr. Ferreira had plenty of these things.  He also recalls that when he went to meet the directorate of Mangueira the
first time, they gave him a “test” in improvising, to show if he was up
to their standards.  He then assumed the job of Diretor de Harmonia and
later on became one of their “intérpretes” or lead singers.

I hope you enjoy this addictive record.  I think I listened to it at least four times just while writing this blog post.

in 320 kbs

MIRROR 1 //  MIRROR 2 ///

in FLAC

MIRROR 1 // MIRROR 2

Various – Encontro Com A Velha Guarda (1976)

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ENCONTRO COM A VELHA GUARDA
Diversos Intérpretes / Various Artists
Phonogram/Philips

Produced by Mazola
(LP/1976 – CD/1996)

01 – Saudade do passado (Mano Décio da Viola – Rubens da Silva) canta: Mano Décio da Viola
02 – Salário Mínimo (Hemani de Alvarenga) canta: Hernani Alvarenga
03 – Feliz é quem sabe esperar (Jota Palmeira – Noel Rosa de Oliveira) canta: Noel Rosa de Oliveira
04 – Ingratidão (Ismael Silva) canta: Ismael Silva
05 – Clara de ovo (Duduca do Salgueiro – Noel Rosa de Oliveira) canta: Duduca do Salgueiro
06 – É por aqui (Walter Rosa) canta: Walter Rosa
07 – Juizo final (Élcio Soares – Nelson Cavaquinho) canta: Nelson Cavaquinho
08 – Concurso para enfarte (Alvaiade) canta: Alvaiade
09 – Eu Vou Sorrir (Carivaldo de Morra – Iracy Silva) canta: Iracy Serra
10 – Reliquias da Bahia (Pelado da Mangueira) canta: Pelado da Mangueira

Here is a record that I’ve had in the cue to post for at least the last nine months.  The problem has been that this record is so good, every time I start to try and find something to say about it I feel unworthy.   This is one of the proverbial “desert island discs” and if I had to be stranded anywhere with only one samba album, this would be on the short list.  It probably even beats out that other amazing disc by a different Velha Guarda, Portela Passado de Glória.  So in the absence of excuses for delaying this post, I can only say “Feliz é quem tem paciência / Feliz é que sabe espera” (Noel Rosa de Oliviera)

This record features samba composers from the escolas de samba of Mangueira, Portela, Salgueiro, and Império Serrano.  All of these guys could be considered ‘godfathers’ of samba but of special note is Ismael Silva, frequent partner of Noel Rosa and co-founder of the very first samba school, Deixa Falar (Let Them Talk), and one contribution from certifiable genius Nelson Cavaquinho.

Occasionally I have written about one record or another and claimed that its only flaw was its brevity.  Given that the running time of the majority of classic Brazilian Long Players clock in right around the half-hour mark (this one is 29 minutes and 20 seconds!), this pithy observation was becoming a cliché.  I can’t fault anyone for brevity in an age where recording artists see fit to take at least a two-year break between recordings and then feel compelled to churn out tediously overlong records as if to atone for their absence.  This is a near-perfect album and I prefer it short and sweet than littered with filler.

From the first cavaquinho chords of “Saudade do passado” (Mano Décio da Viola, from samba school Império Serrano), the record takes on the auburn tones of a faded photograph that dominate so thoroughly they even bleed through the album cover itself.  It seems like no matter how far back you go in samba, somebody was always looking back further, commemorating and remembering, creating these perfect still-lifes of terça-feira de carnaval, the last day of carnival as the dust settles into Ash Wednesday.  These songs are a way of marking time as immutable as the lifelines of a tree trunk.  The poetry of the everyday fills nine of the ten selections, whether talking to us about the absurdity of trying to get by on Brazil’s minimum wage, or spinning tales of broken hearts, mágoas, being treated bad but putting up with it anyway because you adore somebody, and of course revenge real or imagined.  Many tunes exhibit what I might call a pragmatic melancholy, sad but never maudlin, and frequently with a dose of black humor like Alvaiade’s contribution here:

Saber sofrer                              //    To know how to suffer
Para mim é uma arte                //    For me is an art form
Mas aguentar você                  //     But putting up with you
É concurso pra enfarte            //     Is like a heart attack competition

… it’s better with the rhymes in it, in the original.

Ismael Silva’s song is great, with his voice that invokes the old days of samba when people sang without any microphones and plenty of vibrato.  Nelson Cavaquinho (card-carrying genius) brings one of his masterworks to the botequim table:  “Juizo Final” here is slightly less gratifying than the version on his own 1973 album, if only because here it is taken at a quicker tempo that robs it a bit of its stateliness.  Perhaps the big ‘deep cut’ for me on this record is Walter Rosa’s song “É Por Aquí.”  Rosa was a Portela stalwart and had a voice that was superficially reminiscent of Nelson, confusing me a bit the first time I heard this album.  He also had some heavy writing partners like Monarco and Manacéia, and has had his compositions recorded by the likes of Roberto Silva, Martinha da Vila, Elizete Cardoso, Zuzuca, and Beth Carvalho (who also recorded a great version of “Salário Minimo”).  A thorough analysis of this album ought to make a similar list for each of these great sambistas, because although each of them left a discographical legacy to greater or lesser degrees, where they really made their mark was as composers: leading their beloved samba schools to Carnaval victory with their songs, or providing the famous voices of MPB and samba with gems for their repertoires.  Many of these songs can still be heard at many a roda de samba.  Because music like this never dies.  The record ends in a slightly odd twist for one that is by and large an intimate affair:  a samba exaltação for Bahia and the city of Salvador, praising its illustrious churches, its acarajé, its candomblé, its Rui Barbosa; the first capital of Brazil, a symbol of national progress, and so on and blah blah blah.    A pleasant enough song (and sung by a Carioca, Pelado da Mangueira, not a Bahian), but kind of uninteresting. Although I’m unsure of the age of this song its zealous civic pride would fit naturally in the era par excellence for samba exaltação – the authoritarian, paternalistic, and uber-nationalist decades under Getulio Vargas.  It just seems an odd choice, given the short 29-minute running time of the record and the abundance of compositions available with all these guys in the same studio.  But I don’t want to be too hard on old Pelado – he wins HANDS DOWN the prize for best apelido (nickname, nome de guerra) and wardrobe of anyone on this record.  I really want his hat and shirt.  I think there is a better photo of him on the vinyl, now I will have to look and bring it here.

The album was produced by Mazola and has liner notes from Sérgio Cabral.
Immaculately recorded and mixed (on which count it scores points
on the tinny, thin sounding Portela album from 1970), this is one of
those rare titles where I own it both on vinyl and CD and I can say they
actually got it right  this time in the digital realm, retaining the
warmth and fullness of the original.  The music’s undying nature notwithstanding, the fact that this recording is
completely out of print is yet another example of malfeasance by an
industry that still views cultural patrimony as just another commodity to be extracted, packaged, and forgotten about.   I
guess the industry has been too busy putting together box sets for Cazuza or
whomever, to remember the sambistas they so gleefully exploited when classic samba was filling their coffers.

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Nelson Cavaquinho – Nelson Cavaquinho (1972)

Photobucket
Photobucket

Nelson Cavaquinho (1972)

RCA Victor 103.0047
Reissue 2004 RCA/Victor Essential Classics

1 Quando eu me chamar saudade
(Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)
2 Tatuagem
(Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)
3 Eu e as flores
(Jair do Cavaquinho, Nelson Cavaquinho)
4 Palhaço
(Oswaldo Martins, Washington, Nelson Cavaquinho)
5 Sempre Mangueira
(Geraldo Queiroz, Nelson Cavaquinho)
6 Deus não me esqueceu
(Armando Bispo, Ananias Silva, Nelson Cavaquinho)
7 A flor e o espinho
(Alcides Caminha, Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)
8 Degraus da vida
(César Brasil, Antônio Braga, Nelson Cavaquinho)
9 Notícia
(Alcides Caminha, Norival Bahia, Nelson Cavaquinho)
10 Lágrima sem júri
(Fernando Mauro, Nelson Cavaquinho)
11 Luto
(Sebastião Nunes, Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)
12 Luz negra
(Amâncio Cardoso, Nelson Cavaquinho)

This just may be the most perfect samba album ever. Hard thing to say, though, and I am saying it mostly because anytime I listen to Nelson Cavaquinho sing, I feel like the guy just WAS samba. The original liner notes (lovingly and thankfully reproduced in this reissue) by Sergio Cabral call him an “unconventional” singer, with a voice “full of cachaça, suffering, and bohemia.” Cabral goes through great pains to insist that nothing could pull Nelson out of the botequins of Lapa and Praça Tiradentes, those charming corner bars where people could sit around a table talking, arguing, or playing samba until there were dozens of bottles under the table (to be counted by the astute bartender at the end of it all), until the first rays of the sun sent them home. Nelson carries this life in the timbre of his voice and his melodic phrasing, and while he might have lacked the ‘prettiness’ of a voice like Cartola’s, his sambas shared with that peer and master what is sort of a Mangueira trademark – the sweetly melancholic samba driven by minor chord progressions, augmented by augmented chords and blue notes, exultant without being strident as they point the way through suffering through their wisdom of poetry, song, conviviality and companionship.

Nelson Cavaquinho would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year. Happy birthday, Mestre Nelson!

The album is full of classics but I have to mention some highlights. The first three tracks are a killer opening for any album: “Quando Eu Me Chamar Saudades,” “Tatuagem” and “Eu e As Flores.” The lyrics are parsimony exemplified, “O meu úlitmo fracasso, está na tatuagem do meu braço// My last weakness (or mistake) is tattooed there on my arm” from ‘Tatuagem,’ or “When I pass by the flowers, they almost speak out to me, ‘Go now, that tomorrow we will decorate your end,” from ‘Eu e As Flores,” evoking the image of a man in a casket with flowers left on him by friends and family.. This would seem maudlin if sung by anyone but a genius sambista, I think. And that tune has a marvelously ‘jazzista’, swinging samba-jazz arrangement. By which I mean — it is perfectly swinging for the tune but does not overdue it: Nelson would sound kind of ridiculous singing like Jair Rodriguez or Wilson Simonal. Somehow he sings over the band and it just *works*. It is principally the drumming that gets me on it — I have no proof, by I SWEAR it sounds like Wilson das Neves on the drum kit on this album. The guy played the skins on hundreds of records, so its very possible..

That first tune, “Quando Eu Me Chamar Saudades”, could have been Nelson’s epitaph. It does no justice to his poetics to summarize thus, but basically it is an eloquent articulation pointing out that it is easy to give homage to someone after they’ve passed away, say what an excellent guy they were, maybe cry a little, maybe even make him a guitar out of pure gold; But it’s another thing to be there when they are living flesh and bone, struggling to get by. There is a short documentary by Leon Hirzman made in 1969 showing Nelson languishing in relative poverty and following him around on his daily routine, as well as playing some tunes. I had that documentary on a bootleg DVD made by a community of samba enthusiasts in São Paulo, converted from VHS. It’s great, if you can find it — I swear I saw in a newspaper that it had made it onto DVD legitamately but I have not been able to track it down yet. In any event, when I hear “Quando Eu Me Chamar Saudades” I often think of some of those images.

It hurts me to levy a criticism against an album I like so much, but I can’t help it: the one weakness of this record is that the winning formula of this album — the arrangements, a clean, ‘live’ mix with prominent cavaquinho, occasional woodwinds, and a chorus of women responding soulfully to Nelson’s verses (occasionally carrying entire verses on their own without him) — is used throughout the album, to the point where some of the tunes start to come off… How do I say this? It’s not “repetitious”, because each tune is unique and distinguished by the writing of Nelson and his partners (principally Guilherme de Brito). Perhaps I can say that it is kind of like receiving different gifts in identical boxes with identical wrapping paper (embolagem). I hesitate to even mention this because it really only becomes an issue when you’ve listened to the record for the third time on the same day; something I have been doing a lot lately since I found this RCA/Victor reissue.

Okay, I have strayed from my narrative here: there are plenty of other classic sambas on this album: “A Flor e o espinho,” “Degrau da vida,” and “Luto” are particular favorites of mine lately. Again, the lyrics are indispensible, but even if you don’t understand them, Nelson’s voice has an ability to communicate the meaning across language barriers. No shit, I really believe this. It’s a talent that very few have, and he had it.

Enjoy this classic album and piece of the musical and cultural patrimony of Brazil!

Full artwork scanned at 600 dpi and downsized to 300 dpi included. Composer credits embedded in ID tags along with Portuguese accents and diacriticals.

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