Luiz Gonzaga ‘A História do Nordeste / O Nordeste Na Voz De’ CD (Aquarela do Brasil) 5/5

Part of a recent and ongoing series of earlier Brazilian recordings from the post WWII era, this is a wonderful opportunity to hear one of the all-time greats of Brazilian roots music, Luiz Gonzaga, in his prime on three albums that were originally recorded on either 78 or 12″ LP format. The music is that of north-eastern Brazil and has a strong rustic quality to it, but is immediately recognisable as Brazilian and the remastering makes it sound as fresh as when it was recorded. A simple format of accordion, percussion and vocals predominates and is really all that is required when the songs are so catchy to start with. Of course, the classic, ‘Asa branca’, is included here, arguably the greatest ever composition by Gonzaga, and one, moreover, that has endlessly been covered over the decades, but this must count among the earliest interpretations, if not the original. However, Gonzaga was at his creative peak on these sides and there is plenty to recommend elsewhere. That includes for example the unusual time signature to, ‘Respeito Januário’, which has a highly attractive spoken dialogue that adds to the enjoyment quality. Furthermore, there is an attempt at early rock ‘n’ roll meets folk on the infectious, ‘Só se rindo’, complete with female harmonies and handclaps. For something a tad calmer, perhaps, the film soundtrack feel to, ‘O tocador quer beber’ (‘The player wants to drink’), combines flute and accordion, with a lovely lightness of touch and spoken dialogue that is highly rhythmic. As a whole, there is an innocence to the music of these recordings that has long disappeared and a timeless quality, illustrated on a number such as, ‘Saudade de Pernamouco’,a song of longing for that particular state in north-eastern Brazil. If this folksier style of Brazilian music appeals, then try volume three of the excellent David Byrne compilation series on Luaka Bop of Brazilian music. That features Luiz Gonzaga and others, including Gal Costa, Equally, Gilberto GIl recorded music in this style for a small independent Brazilian film, ‘Me, You, Them’. In the same series, watch out for the Dorival Caymmi, and then a retrospective of the early bossa nova work of Joao Gilberto. A terrific way to brush off the blues of January with some glorious Brazilian retro.

Tim Stenhouse