Laurindo Almeida and the Bossa Nova All Stars (American Jazz Classics) 4/5

Laurindo AlmeidaBy the mid-late 1950s the bossa nova phenomenon was well under way and this generously timed CD includes two albums from the era plus seven bonus cuts that includes a session with Bud Shank and Gary Peacock from 1958 and a larger ensemble from 1962. Some of the best numbers in a big band groove are the more unlikely bossa vehicles such as ‘Naked City Theme’ which Ahmed Jamal recorded around the same period, but here the shuffling beat is reminiscent of the later Walter Wanderly’s Hammond organ outings on Verve. An update on West Side Story’s ‘Maria’ is performed as a mid-tempo number and one with some Getz-inspired tenor from Bert Cooper. Almeida and flautist Justin Gordon combine on Sidney Bechet’s evergreen ‘Petite Fleur’ while a favourite tune of the era, ‘Fly me to the moon’, is convincingly transposed into the bossa idiom. Another lovely piece is ‘Recado Bossa Nova’ which Hank Mobley memorably covered in a similar vein for Blue Note. The bonus tracks are more reflective of the pared down bossa nova sound with ‘Harlem Samba’ sounding particularly fresh. Adding to the novelty, in the informative sleeve notes there is a two page guide to bossa nova dance patterns with original sleeve notes that are indicative of how the Brazilian beat was taking off in the USA. Tim Stenhouse