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