Do samba bem brasileiro
Ouçam o lamento de um triste
Que tem na alma um pandeiro
O samba foi lá em casa
E disse a mim soluçando
Tiraram tudo de belo que eu tinha
Pediu socorro chorandoOnde andarão os valores
Daqueles tempos de outrora
Seus lindos versos de amores
Que até hoje o povo chora
Voltem de novo que é grande a saudade
Talento não tem idade
So all hell has broken loose in Brazil since the last time I made a blog post of Brazilian music. I’m not even going to touch it today – if you want to read about it English, there are some good sources out there (but mostly mediocre ones). Otherwise, poor yourself a glass of something – wine, whiskey, milk, the blood of the workers, orange juice, I don’t really care – and prepare to enjoy some great music.
A long time ago, in a galaxy next door, I posted the first of these two Ataulfo Alves collections from the Revivendo label and, naturally, implied strongly that the second one would be soon to come. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you should know better than to believe such silver-tongued assurances. Like the fortune teller told me once, it is my destiny to let people down.
One of my favorite blog readers, Valladão, commented on the first installment that he honestly didn’t expect to enjoy the CD too much because of the age of the recordings, but instead found himself loving it. That struck me as an interesting comment because I suppose it is a natural enough bias no matter where you come from. Even though as a teenager I spent countless hours borrowing old jazz and blues records from the public library, I think a few decades would pass before I could appreciate pre-war American jazz and blues beyond a detached, almost academic interest and begin to hear it in a more personal way. Perhaps in a similar way, the extremely dense and layered bedrock of Brazilian popular music can sometimes goes unacknowledged by music fans, regardless of nationality. You know it is there under your feet, supporting the present and making possible so many of the things in life that you appreciate, but it remains unexamined, taken for granted. Well, I was delighted to hear that Valladão was turned on to one of his country’s great samba composers because of an innocuous blog post here. I also think there is something extremely “modern” or at least forward-thinking about Ataulfo Alves’ compositions that keeps them sounding fresh (although he is definitely not alone in that regard). He churned out a dazzling variety of material, performing chameleon-feats of tailored stylizations, until it is difficult to comprehend how the same person could have written everything represented in this and other collections. There are threads that tie them together, but I will leave that to the musicologists to explain in depth while I simply marvel at the work, deliberately dumbfounded. If I could meet Ataulfo today, or summon his spirit to ask detailed and nuanced questions about his life and career, I would probably just end up asking him: “Are you a wizard?”
This collection features so many different artists who recorded Ataulfo’s compositions that it becomes kind of impossible to properly present the disc without writing a post that would exceed the patience of most readers. The scant liner notes from Revivendo are kind of disappointing in that regard as well. Suffice it to say that all of the artists collected here have their own squares in the quilt of Brazil’s “Golden Age” of samba. I like these Ataulfo collections so much that I’ve included several tracks in various podcasts over the years: in fact, two on this disc (the Carmen Miranda and Jorge Veiga cuts) appeared on my first ever genre-specific podcast from February, dedicated to samba. I’ll just single out a couple below that tickle my eardrums.
The wonderful Odete Amaral performs the carnival hit “Ironia.” Odete put in a lot of time on sessions as a backup singer, appearing on many great recordings by Francisco Alves and Mario Reis and others from the Golden Age. She married Ciro Monteiro, who also appears on this collection more than once. Thirty years after this recording, incidentally, she would appear on the historic “Fala, Mangueira” album alongside Nelson Cavaquinho, Cartola, and Clementina de Jesus.
Many of Ataulfo’s compositions show a strong influence of choro or chorinho, like Infidelidade sung by Déo. Is that Pixinguinha and Abel Ferreira I hear playing? Strains of that inspiration are heard on a great deal of the instrumental ornamentation woven throughout this material like filigree. Listen to the flute flourishes dancing around Aracy de Almeida singing “Eu Não Sou Daquí” and Nelson Gonçalves on “Sinto-me Bem.” Later on, Déo is featured again and gets downright jazzy as he croons over some punchy blasts of horns that wouldn’t sound out of place on a big band record. The popularity of Latin dance band styles like mambo is evident throughout this collection as well.
My first exposure to Nora Ney was an early 70s record for which Vinicius de Moraes wrote the liner notes. At the time, not being familiar with her classic material, I was left indifferent. The track “Vai, vai mesmo” from 1958 has a wicked kind of edge to it, a deliciously cool “get out of my life” break-up tune. It was also a carnival hit. Also, it has a tuba bass line.
I mentioned in the post for the first volume how Ataulfo is that rare specimen for the era who was both a composer widely-recorded by the top singers of the day, and a first-class performer of his own material at the same time with a successful singing career. He shares that accomplishment with Noel Rosa and some others, but the trajectory of composers like Ismael Silva or Cartola, who came back as performers in another subsequent wave of music, seems to be more common.
Although there are the exact same number (5) by Ataulfo himself on both volumes, for some reason these didn’t jump out as me as much. Or perhaps they just fit in better with the rest of the material? The influence of jazz once again bleeds all of “Ela, Sempre Ela.” Then there is a kind of seresta waltz with a country or caipira vibe, “Lá No Quebrada Do Monte.” I was considering featuring a clip of “Pela Luz Divina” because it’s awesome, but this post is getting rather thick with YouTube clips and I want to chose just one more track. The aforementioned Jorge Viega puts in a memorable rendition of the much-recorded “Na Cadência Do Samba” from 1962, the “newest” track on this disc. This is a trademark tune for Ataulfo, and the liner notes state that Viega’s recording might be the first but they’re not really sure, because several versions were released almost simultaneously. You can hear Viega’s version tucked into that podcast I mentioned, so let’s feature an Ataulfo performance from this disc (which happens to have a similar melody in the refrain), “Talento Não Tem Idade,” where he is backed by Guio de Moraes e Seu Conjunto, kind of a Brazilian Pérez Prado. This recording features an electric guitar on it, a decade before certain purists would start claiming that electricity was killing samba, as well as a full drum kit swinging the beat with panache. But there is no doubt the song is 100% samba. The drummer plays a floor-tom fill halfway through the song that bangs out the rhythm where the surdo drum would be, which kicks the song into another level of intensity, slowing down slightly for the ending so that you aren’t left too disappointed that the it’s over. The notes observe that the recording had no impact on the public via chart success, but I imagine musicians and composers of the upcoming generation playing this one on the Victrola and having their mind’s blown. The sub-genres of jazz-samba (and samba-jazz) were really still nascent, developing phenomena when this record was made in 1952. This was guy was so nonchalantly on the cutting edge of his musical times, he was the definition of “cool.”
The disc winds down with a marchinha sung by Carlos Galhardo, “Arraste O Pé, Moçada”, and a grand finale from Orlando Silva in “Errei, Erramos” (1938), arranged by Radamés Gnattali, in which Silva seems to be channeling Carmen Miranda in his phrasing. Oh, I almost forgot to mention: the Carmen song featured here, “É um que a gente tem” (1941), is one of the songs she recorded to respond to her critics that lambasted her after her return from living and working in the US. They accused her of having become Americanized, her concert appearances were panned, and she quickly turned around and went back to the US to stay, but not before recording a handful of killer sambas fighting back at her attackers. The most of famous of these had the rather forthright title of “Disseram que eu voltei americanizada” (They said I came back Americanized). The Odeon sat on this recording here and didn’t release it until the scandal had passed, when they were scraping the vault for any more Carmen material.
Not a bad song here, folks. Compilations like this one represent the best that the Revivendo label have to offer, so listen up.