Veteran sambistas Jair Rodrigues and Elza Soares are joined by two of the new wave – City Of God star Seu Jorge and Luciana Mello plus 40 (yes 40) of Brazil’s best musicians to reinterpret 11 classic samba songs plus a couple of new ones. My pick is Seu Jorge who does a geat version of Dorival Caymmi’s ‘Samba Da Minha Terra ‘ . Refreshing. Graham Radley
Samba is sometimes characterised outside Brazil as an endless explosion of larger ensemble percussion as witnessed at the Rio carnival. However, this is only part of the story and one that ignores its more modest roots. Samba is a more complex mix of multiple tempi, sometimes slow and mournful and sometimes faster and uplifting. What is beyond doubt is that despite modest beginnings when it was largely rejected by the Brazilian middle classes, samba has become the national music of Brazil and so many sub-genres have evolved as a direct result of samba’s pervasive influence. This present compilation celebrates just a fraction of the numerous facets of samba at a time when there is a vigorous re-investigation of its origins and golden era from the 1930s through to the 1950s. Stars of the calibre of Marisa Monte and Joyce have recently devoted whole albums to reworking specific samba styles. Of the artists on ‘Sambistas’ the album is broadly divided between established veteran sambistas such as Jair Rodrigues, Elza Soares and Jair Oliveira and newer upcoming singers including ‘City of God’ actor/singer Seu Jorge and Luciano Mello.
For the former Jair Rodrigues made his name in the 1960s as part of a famous television/recording duet with arguably Brazil’s greatest ever female singer Elis Regina on the ‘O Fina da Bossa’ show and LPs. Here he offers a delicious old school samba on ‘Juizo final’ a song co-written by samba legend Nelson Cavaquinho while his impassioned vocals also featiure on ‘Batuque nacozinha’ with lovely flute and collective vocal accompaniment. Elza Soares is best known for her 1960s recordings and marriage to Brazilian footballing legend Garrincha. Her versatlitiy is displayed on the laid back ‘Minhas madrugadas’ and on the uptempo ‘Incompatibilidade de genios’, which is a contemporary samba from the 1980s that was a hit for the crack songwriting pairing of Joao Bosco (who sang the original) and Aldir Blanc. Old and new stars alike combine on the rootsy ‘Samba da doca’ with Seu Jorge and Jair Oliveira sharing vocal duties on this homage to the brassy samba gafieira style. Rising star Luciano Mello contributes three songs of which the evergreen ‘Falsa Biaana’ impresses and re-affirms the songwriting skills of Bahia’s most distinguishged wordsmith, Dorival Caymmi. This is an authentic slice of samba that champions its roots and one hopes that a second volume will follow, perhaps with two of its greatest veterans Martinho da Vila and Paulinho da Viola as active participants. Tim Stenhouse