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Pure Bossa Nova

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Album Review

No one can argue that this collection of cuts by Brazil's Tamba Trio isn't a welcome one. It contains 14 tracks from albums recorded between 1962 and 1964, when the group was riding high in its native country and breaking through in Europe, Japan, and the United States (the latter to a lesser agree). The Tamba Trio featured pianist Luizinho Eça, bassist Bebeto (born Adalberto Castilho), and drummer Helcio Milito, who brought the music of their countrymen to the wide open ears of the world, whose listeners got behind the amazing combination of musicianship and three-part harmony that became this group's trademark. Eça is one of the most innovative pianists his country ever produced. He was schooled in classical music but was also a jazz pianist of astonishing vision, lyricism, and technical acumen. All three men did time singing with others and playing in various groups in Brazil until they began to rearrange the bossa nova for their particularly soulful, sophisticated, and swinging take. This volume assembles cuts from their early albums, especially the singles. There's Dori Caymmi's "O Samba da Minha Terra," Baden Powell and Vinícius de Moraes' "Consolação," and Edú Lobo's "Borandá," as well as tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim with de Moraes ("Só Danço Samba") and Aloysio de Oliveira ("Só Tinha de Ser Com Você") and Newton Mendonça ("Samba de uma Nota Só"), as well as a young Marcos Valle with the truly classic "Sonho de Maria," written with Paulo Sergio. But it isn't just the tunes, all of which had been — or would be — covered by virtually everyone else on the Brazilian scene; it's the deep integration of hardcore swinging jazz, which was more rhythmically intense than what the Americans were doing.

Check the live version of "Só Tihna de Ser Com Você" — which has its roots in the sounds of both Erroll Garner and Teddy Wilson, and with its extrapolated vocal harmonies (all done in a live setting in front of an audience), with dynamics that shift time signatures in the middle of phrases — and you get an idea just how wild and new this stuff was, and in many ways remains. It is not a stretch to hear the roots of the less wily experiments of Gilberto Gil or even Valle here, and one can even make links in the chain to the compositional and arrangement methods employed by Os Mutantes early on (despite the music begin radically different). This music is dressed occasionally with flutes or saxophones, but nothing keeps the attention away from the shifting, gently insistent rhythmic invention that is countered by the stretched three-part harmony that keeps itself firmly in the tenor and higher baritone ranges (check "O Amor Em Paz"). The album's final cut is, of course, the biggest single that the band laid down, in Jorge Ben's "Mas Que Nada," with an arrangement they extrapolated on for 1964's "Borandá" by Edú Lobo. One can hear the roots of groups such as Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 here, but this is more driving, more intoxicating, and — truth be told — more elegant without reining its elusive spirit down in an American recording studio. While the recording quality is fine, its transfer isn't perfect here, but that's beside the point. This collection is necessary because it is the only one listeners have. Universal and its many labels are far more interested in collections and reissues than actual new releases these days, and they should deeply consider releasing the group's actual titles — including the ones made in the late '60s with a different rhythm section as the Tamba 4, and those wonderfully early electronic samba records made by Eça in the early '70s. This is brilliant work, without a weak cut in the set, but it still only whets the appetite for more Tamba.


Genre: Brazilian

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Easily the most talented bossa nova group of the '60s, Tamba Trio perfected a breezy, swinging version of bossa vocal-pop that proved incredibly influential in Brazil and throughout the world. Comprising pianist Luizinho Eça, bassist Bebeto (born Adalberto Castilho), and drummer Helcio Milito, Tamba Trio not only played a wide range of instruments but also contributed incredibly close harmony vocals. (Most bossa nova groups specialized in either vocals or musicianship, but not both.) Taking their...
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Pure Bossa Nova, Tamba Trio
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