Beth Carvalho – Pra Seu Governo & Canto Por Um Novo Dia (2003 2-em-1)


Beth Carvalho
2003 EMI Music 583745 2

PRA SEU GOVERNO (1974) Tapecar LPX.22

1. Miragem (Nelson Cavaquinho / Guilherme de Brito)
2 1800 Colinas (Gracia do Salgueiro)
3 Tesoura Cega (Walter Queiroz / César Costa Filho)
4 Maior É Deus (Eduardo Gudin / Paulo César Pinheiro)
5 Fim de Sofrimento (Monarco)
6 A Pedida É Essa (Norival Reis / Vicente Matos)
7 Pra Ninguém Chorar (Paulo César Pinheiro / Edmundo Souto)
8 Me Ganhou (Gisa Nogueira)
9 Falência (Nelson Cavaquinho / Guilherme de Brito)
10 Vovó Chica (Jurandir da Mangueira)
11 Agora É Portela 74 (Paulo César Pinheiro / Maurício Tapajós)
12 Pra Seu Governo (Haroldo Lobo / Milton de Oliveira)

CANTO POR UM NOVO DIA (1973) Tapecar LPX.19

13 Hora de Chorar (Mano Décio da Viola / Jorginho Pessanha)
14 Canto Por Um Novo Dia (Garoto da Portela)
15 Se É Pecado Sambar (Manoel Santana)
16 Homenagem a Nelson Cavaquinho (Carlos Elias)
17 Evocação (Nelson Ferreira)
18 Velhice da Porta-bandeira (Eduardo Gudin / Paulo César Pinheiro)
19 Folhas Secas (Nelson Cavaquinho / Guilherme de Brito)
20 Salve a Preguiça Meu Pai (Mário Lago)
21 Mariana da Gente (João Nogueira)
22 Fim de Reinado (Martinho da Vila)
23 Clementina de Jesus (Gisa Nogueira)
24 Memória de Um Compositor (Darcy da Mangueira / Betinho)
25 Flor da Laranjeira (Humberto de Carvalho / Zé Pretinho / Bernardino Silva)
26 Sereia (Tradicional)
27 São Jorge Meu Protetor

If I had to invent a singer, she would (naturally) need to have a very beautiful voice.  After this, I would train her enough to sing well, learning the secrets of phrasing, division, breathing, projection, naturalness, these things that you learn in school.

Later, I would say to her that all of this was not enough.  A singer is not a musical instrument.  She is a person, a human being, and it is fundamental that this is made clear when she sings.  The emotions, sadness, joy, depression, anguish – all this that popular music suggests has to be transmitted when it’s time to sing.  So much depends on her so that the music is not shorn of its sensations when it’s communicated.

Finally, I would tell her to sing things that come from the people.  The songs made by the geniuses of the people, full of talent and unspoilt by commercial ambitions and the neurosis of novelty so common to composers of the middle class.  I would suggest that she serve as a point of entry between popular culture and consumerism, not allowing the goal to jeopardize the origin.  She would have to be, therefore, a singer of great talent.

Beth Carvalho saved me the trouble of this work.  She already exists.

– Sérgio Cabral

This is a bit of a ‘stop gap’ post because the world should filled with music but I don’t have a lot of time to help with this Divine Mission today.  Along with Clara Nunes, Beth was one of the people whose albums first got me into samba when I was just visiting there as a tourist.  I think the first album I heard, at a friends house was Nos Botequins da Vida, one of her first efforts for RCA.  Shortly after, I was lucky enough to find that album and one of these – Canto Por Um Novo Dia, I think – in my regular stop-and-frisk of the street vendor’s carts in every city I passed through.   They are pretty common albums, nothing “rare groove” about ’em, but it’s your loss if you overlook them on that count.  I still feel like Beth gets taken for granted by many Brazilian music fans, maybe because her management did not have the strategic foresight to arrange for her to die young.  She is still around performing, making the occasional record, but has thus far shown zero interest in surrounding herself with young hipsters in the studio to ‘update’ or reinvent what she does, so has yet to become subjected to any awkward revivals.

On top of their strong repertoire drawing from the best of the many composers available to her, these early albums also have the presence of her mentor Nelson Cavaquinho playing guitar on many tracks.  You can hear his distinctive plucking of the strings from behind the sounding board, as well as some occasional backup singing, alongside Dino 7 Cordas.  There is also Abel Ferreira on clarinet, Copinha on flute, Wilson das Neves on drums, Paulo Mauro on a couple of arrangements.  This last handful is all on on Pra Seu Governo, which is inverted chronologically on this 2-on-1 CD.  I’m not sure why they did this, but it probably is the stronger of the two albums in terms of immediately just grabbing hold of you.  It has also the best samba marimba ever, on Monarco’s O Fim do Sofrimento…  The earlier album Canto Por Um Novo Dia is equally excellent, and features arrangements by César Carmargo Mariano, at the time in the middle of a string of classics for Elis Regina.  It opens with the heart-wrenching Hora de chorar, which is a bit less upbeat of an ‘opening number’ than Miragem, perhaps. Beth delivers a great mix of tunes on both albums from composers old and new, and maintains the laid back, roda de samba vibe that I think is one of the things that endeared her so much to Nelson Cavaquinho.

So now, the sound … It is a big step up from the horrific Discobertas boxset (I’ll keep laying into that point until people stop buying them – I’ve never seen a label so worthy of going out of business).  But this EMI reissue has still got “issues.” The EQ is relatively neutral, but the source for both albums appears to be vinyl copies.  I suspect Tapecar didn’t keep their masters or else preserved them so poorly that they are useless now. So, surely EMI has access to fancier A/D conversion units than I have at my disposal, but unfortunately they also slapped some heavy CEDAR noise reduction on it that sucks all the transient frequencies out.  There is audible compression too that you can really hear kicking in at some places, but it’s used judiciously for the most part, adjusted to sound pretty natural and doesn’t distract too much.  However, listen to the whole disc with a pair of headphones and I all but guarantee you will have listening fatigue and a headache before you are a couple songs into Canto Por Um Novo Dia.   Although my vinyl copies of these are probably less than pristine, they might still warrant a needledrop here sometime for the handful of us who still care about these things.


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Various – Encontro Com A Velha Guarda (1976)

Diversos Intérpretes / Various Artists

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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Henricão – Recomeço (1980)

Recomeço (1980)
Label: Eldorado
Genre : Samba

Só vendo que beleza (Marambaia)
Sons dos carrilhões
Sou eu
Saravá umbanda
Está chegando a hora
De cupim
Não faça hora
á é madrugada
Meu crime
Meu grande desejo

Composer credits include:

Rubens Campos, Henricão; Rubens Campos, Dedé, João Pernambucano, J. Alcides, Penaloza e Juan de Dios Felisberto Vitor Gonçalves, and others

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Henrique Felipe de Costa. Yet another sambista largely forgotten by many and who never made much money from his work. The first black Rei Momo of Brazilian Carnaval; a founder of the ‘Vai Vai’ samba school of São Paulo; the man who discovered the talented singer Carmen Costa; a important figure in getting Nelson Cavaquinho started on his path of samba, cowriting one of Nelson’s first songs; and a composer who began writing in the 1920s, sung on radio programs and recorded a bunch of 78’s, and has had his songs recorded by Elza Soares, Elis Regina, and of course Carmen Costa, who also appears on this album for the song “Carmelito.” Henrique is also responsible for transforming the Mexican tune “Cielito lindo” into “Está chegando a hora” which is now song at the end of parties, dances, futebol games, carnavais.. but nobody seems to remember Henricão.

Henricão had not recorded any music since 1956 before making this album at the instigation of a reporter who went in search of him while writing on a piece on the fiftieth anniversary of the Vai Vai samba school. He found the 330-pound Henrique living in a tiny apartment and working as a used car salesman at the age of 72. And, thankfully for us, he convinced Henricão to make an album — after first getting him back on stage singing some duets with Carmen Costa and recording a radio program where he sang and was interviewed about his life. His voice may not be earth-shattering on this album, but is honest – the real deal – and he definitely sounds in his element, comfortable and relaxed, and the songs are all lovely; arranged, recorded, and produced in the immaculate standards of the Eldorado label, responsible for the cream of the crop of samba during the late 70s and early 80s. The result is a lovely, subtle, laid-back album. The slow march of Andorinha has nothing less than a euphonium as its lead instrument, a choice that Henrição insisted on. The duet with Carmen Costa on “Carmelita” is worth the price of admission alone. Henricão seems to have worked mostly in partnerships, most notably with Rubens Campos, and all the songs here were composed as such. This album contains an interesting piece, “Sons dos carrilhões”, which is an instrumental ‘choro’ by João Pernambuco (contemporary of Pixinguinha) to which Henricão wrote some lyrics. It is also worth pointing out that although he was born in Rio, Henricão lived most of his life in São Paulo — that city once termed the ‘graveyard of samba’ by the hyberbolic and rather arrogant Vinicius de Moraes. The title of the album, “Recomeço”, would insinuate the renewal of a musical career for Henricão, or perhaps a more literal “starting over.” Spiritually and emotionally perhaps that is what this was for ‘Big Henry’, a purging of old wounds and bitterness and the opportunity to leave us with a document and registry of his talents as a sambista. As far as this writer knows, he never recorded again.

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Nelson Cavaquinho – MPB Especial (1973)


Nelson Cavaquinho – MPB Especial 1973


Released in 2000 by SESC – SP (JCB-0709-030)

1 Choro do adeus
(Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)
2 Não faça vontade dela
(Rubens Campos, Henricão, Nelson Silva)
3 Devia se condenada
(Cartola, Nelson Cavaquinho)
4 Rugas
(Augusto Garcez, Ary Monteiro, Nelson Cavaquinho)
5 Não te dói a consciência?
(Augusto Garcez, Ary Monteiro, Nelson Cavaquinho)
6 Aquele bilhetinho
(Augusto Garcez, Arnô Carnegal, Nelson Cavaquinho)
7 Revertério
(Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)
8 Minha fama
(Magno de Oliveira, Nelson Cavaquinho)
9 Cuidado com a outra (Dia das mães)
(Augusto Tomaz, Nelson Cavaquinho)
10 Rio, não és criança
(José Ribeiro, Nelson Cavaquinho)
11 A flor e o espinho
(Alcides Caminha, Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)
12 Mulher sem alma
(Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)
13 Pecado
(Ligia Uchoa, Nelson Cavaquinho)
14 Garça
(Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)
15 Cinza
(Renato Gaetano, Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)
16 O meu pecado
(Zé Kéti)
17 Sempre Mangueira
(G. Queiroz, Nelson Cavaquinho)
18 Minha festa
(Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)
19 Folhas secas
(Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)
20 Palhaço
(Oswaldo Martins, Washington, Nelson Silva)
21 Degraus da vida
(César Brasil, Antônio Braga, Nelson Cavaquinho)
22 Deus não me esqueceu
(Armando Bispo, Sidney Silva, Nelson Cavaquinho)
23 Primeiro de abril
(Paulista, Noel Silva, Nelson Cavaquinho)
24 É tão triste cair
(Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)
25 Visita triste
(Anatalício, Guilherme de Brito, Nelson Cavaquinho)


Levado para a música pelos compositores Henricão e Rubens Campos – autores de sucessos da cantora Carmen Costa -, o genial Nelson Cavaquinho conta diversas histórias curiosas de sua vida no programa MPB Especial (1973), da TV Cultura, cujo áudio finalmente está à disposição do público, no formato CD. Nelson conta como suas músicas foram chegando aos estúdios de gravação. Que seu primeiro intérprete foi Alcides Gerardi (Não Faça Vontade a Ela), sucedido por Cyro Monteiro (Rugas) e tantos outros, como Dalva de Oliveira (Palhaço), Clara Nunes (Sempre Mangueira) e Elis Regina (Folhas Secas). Com sua voz rouca inconfundível, Nelson canta 25 jóias de seu repertório, algumas delas, com a ajuda da voz e do violão do fiel parceiro Guilherme de Brito. Em geral, são sambas tristíssimos, angustiados e com um certo temor da morte. Guilherme também dá seu depoimento, explicando que muitas das canções que fez com Nelson nos botequins da Praça Tiradentes, no Rio, se perderam em meio a bebida, mulheres e cigarros. Mesmo assim, várias sobreviveram ao esquecimento. Juntos, eles lembram algumas delas, tais como A Flor e o Espinho, Folhas Secas, Minha Festa e outras menos manjadas, como as dramáticas Mulher Sem Alma (“Quase passei fome pra honrar seu nome/ tropecei nos erros de uma mulher sem alma/ mas não perdi a calma”), Pecado (“Vai, antes que os vizinhos saibam… antes que o sol transforme em pedra o lamaçal que tu trouxeste/ para dentro do meu lar”) e Garça (“És uma garça vadia/ voando na orgia sem ter direção”). Por sua vez, Nelson recorda ainda alguns personagens lendários da cena carioca que passaram por sua vida, como Noel Rosa (que gostou de um de seus sambas, Devia Ser Condenada), Sérgio Porto (“me ajudou a pagar uns móveis que tem lá em casa”) e Zé Kéti (“Conheci quando ele trabalhou numa fábrica em São Cristóvão. Me socorria quando precisava de dinheiro para a passagem, já que eu gostava mais de um botequim do que de outra coisa”). Mesmo com um certo ranço machista comum à sua época em algumas letras, a música de Nelson sobrevive ao novo século como expressão máxima do samba de qualidade cunhado por um artista nato, que jamais estudou para exercer seu ofício.

Vale lembrar que os discos deste coleção não são vendidos separadamente. Mais informações no site do Sesc-SP: (Rodrigo Faour)


Flabbergast free translation

Initiated into music by the composers Henricão and Rubens Campos – songwriters of many hits for Carmen Costa – the amenable Nelson Cavaquinho tells a variety of interesting stories from his life in this installment of MPB Especial (1973) from TV Cultural, whose audio is finally available to the public in CD format. Nelson tells about the way his songs found their way to being recorded in the studio. One of his first interpreters was Aicides Gerardi (NãoFaça Vontade a Ela), followed by Cyro Monteiro (Rugas) and many others, like Dalva de Oliveira (Palhaço), Clara Nunes (Sempre Mangueira) and Elis Regina (Folhas Secas). With his unmistakeably coarse voice, Nelson sings 25 gems from his repertoire, some of them with the help of the voice and guitar of his faithful partner Guilherme ade Brito. In general, they are sad songs, anguished and with a certain fear of death. Guilherme also has an interview, explaining that many songs he made together with Nelson in the ‘botaquins’ and bars of Praça Tiradentes in Rio, were lost and forgotten in the middle of drink, women, and cigarettes. Even so, quite a few songs escaped from oblivion and were not forgotton. Together, the duo remember some of tem, such as “A Flor e o Espinho, “Folhas Secas,” “Minha Festa” and other less-known gems, like the dramatic “Mulher Sem Alma” (‘Quase passei fome pra honrar seu nome / tropecei nos erros de uma mulher sem alma / mas n’ao perdi a calma”), Pecado (“Vai, antes que os vizinhos saibam… antes que o sol transforme em pedra o lamaçal que tu trouxeste / para dentro do meu lar”) and “Garça” És uma garça vadia/ voando na orgia sem ter direção). For his part, Nelson even recalls for us stories about some of the lengedary figures of the carioca scene that passed through his life, like Noel Rosa (who liked one of his sambas, ‘Devia Ser Condenanda’), Sérgio Porto (“he helped me pay for the furniture that I had in my house”) and Zé Kéti (“I got to know Zé when he worked in a factory in São Cristovão. He saved me when I needed some bus fare, because already I liked the bar (botequim) more than anything”). Even with a certain archaic machismo common to his era in some lyrics, the music of Nelson survives the new century as an ultimate expression of quality samba created by a natural-born artist, who never studied in order to exercise his craft – Rodrigo Faour


While I treasure pretty much everything released in the massive SESC project that issued the audio from so many (perhaps all?) of the MPB Especial and Ensaio programs, it has to be admitted that some of them are important more for their historic value and for the stories contained on them than perhaps for the music contained therein. Examples might be João do Vale, and Adoniran Barbosa’s, the latter of whom’s handful of studio albums make a much better introduction than his MPB Especial showcase. But then there are those are truly amazing and revelatory in their musicality – too many to list, actually, but the ones from Cartola, Zé Keti, Dominguinhos, Paulinho da Viola, Elis Regina, Nara Leão — and THIS one, from Nelson Cavaquinho. In fact he actually sings some of these songs with more conviction in his voice than on the versions he put out on LP, perhaps being more relaxed in this conversational atmosphere than in a recording studio. His partner Guilherme de Brito helps out on guitar and voice, and together they just blow my mind. Nelson’s stories are both illuminating and sometimes funny, and more lucid than I might have expected (considering what a famous lush Nelson was…) — recalling how he was introduced to Ciro Monteiro or the fact that the first thing that comes to mind about Sérgio Porto is that he ‘lent’ him the money to pay for all the furniture he had in his house in Rio. Our inability to hear the questions in the interview annoy me once again: he says a few words about what he thinks of the ‘new generation’ of sambistas like Paulinho da Viola or (occasional samba composer) Chico Buarque, and Elis Regina interpretating Folhas Secas. But a big surprise is that I can’t find him mentioning Beth Carvalho anywhere here — is it possible they had not made their aquaintance yet? This seems weird anda doesn’t lend much support to the story Beth tells in her recent boxset, where she claims Nelson “gave” her the song Folhas Secas, and Elis stole it, getting her recording out first. And as this program has a date from late November of 73, it must have been after Beth Carvalho’s “Um canto pra um novo dia”… Although perhaps is SESC is listing the AIR date of these programs and not the date they were actually recorded? I dunno, I’m confused, but it doesn’t matter. Just check this one out.

Easily one of the most satisfying entries in this huge SESC collection, and one you don’t need to understand Portuguese to appreciate

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Nelson Cavaquinho – Nelson Cavaquinho (1972)


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.

in 320 kbs em pé trézentos e vinte


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Nelson Cavaquinho – Nelson Cavaquinho (1973)

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1 Juizo final

(Élcio Soares – Nelson Cavaquinho)

2 Folhas secas

(Guilherme de Brito – Nelson Cavaquinho)

3 Caminhando

(Nourival Bahia – Nelson Cavaquinho)

4 Minha festa

(Guilherme de Brito – Nelson Cavaquinho)

5 Mulher sem alma

(Guilherme de Brito – Nelson Cavaquinho)

6 Vou partir

(Jair Costa – Nelson Cavaquinho)

7 Rei vadio

(Joaquim – Nelson Cavaquinho)

8 A flor e o espinho

(Alcides Caminha – Guilherme de Brito – Nelson Cavaquinho)
• Se eu sorrir (Nelson Cavaquinho-Guilherme de Brito)
• Quando eu me chamar saudade (Nelson Cavaquinho-Guilherme de Brito)
• Pranto de poeta (Nelson Cavaquinho-Guilherme de Brito)

9 É tão triste cair

(Nelson Cavaquinho)

10 Pode sorrir

(Guilherme de Brito – Nelson Cavaquinho)

11 Rugas

(Garcêz – Ary Monteiro – Nelson Silva)

12 O bem e o mal

(Guilherme de Brito – Nelson Cavaquinho)

13 Visita triste

(Anatalicio – Guilherme de Brito – Nelson Cavaquinho)

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Nelson Antônio da Silva, aka Nelson Cavaquinho. October 28, 1911 – February 17, 1986

“My voice, you know, is really raspy. But…. what is the name of that guy over there in North America? Ah, Armstrong is also raspy. There are people who like my voice more than many other singers. I don’t know why, but I think its because I feel it. There are singers that have killed my music. I have feeling when I sing.”

-from an interview with Sergio Cabral on the album’s back cover

Nelson Cavaquinho’s amazing gift for memorable melody meant that there was never any shortage of famous artists wanting to record his sambas. Just a glance at the jacket of this one and you see a quick handful, tunes that are better-known if not immortalized in the sweet tones of Clara Nunes, Elis Regina, Elza Soares, Elizeth Cardoso… Surely Nelson was not talking about THEM when he referred to people “killing” his songs. Pelo amor de deus, he couldn’t have been!

Whoever he might have had in mind, his point is well-taken. There is something about his songs, and maybe just samba in general, that particularly suits it to being sung by grissled old men and women. And I say that with love in my heart, of course. Nelson, who carried Cartola’s coffin at his funeral, did not have the sweetened vintage pipes of his close friend. His is more of a croak, but nonetheless endearing for it.

This 1973 record is a classic. It has made the rounds on the ‘blogosphere’ but I like it too much not to share it here, with my own rip of ‘primera qualidade’. The dynamic Odeon duo of Milton Miranda and Maestro Gaya are in the production seats on this one too. Guilherme de Brito, who had taken up his place as Nélson’s main songwriting partner at this point, sings on the medley of songs on Track 8. It’s also worth noting that Nélson plays guitar on the record, and *not* cavaquinho, which he more or less quit playing fairly early on. Nicknames tend to stick, I guess.

A lot of the highlights of this album have been recorded by other artists as well – Juizo Final, Folhas Secas, Vou Partir are especially well-represented songs in the broader samba discography.

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Nelson Cavaquinho and Cartola, 1963, Carnaval in Rio. Photo by Walter Firmo

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