The Billboard Book of Brazilian Music / Samba / The Latin Tinge

The Billboard of Brazilian Music (Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha Guinness £11.99) offers an essential illustrated guide to the rich sounds of Brazil; its history, styles, performers, instruments and its impact on musicians around the globe. It’s all here, from the boisterous rhythms of samba and the cool elegance of the Bossa Nova to jazz-fusion and Brazilian rock music. There’s an in-depth look at the work of such artists as Milton Nascimento, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Airto and Flora Purim, and Gilberto Gil as well as jazz Brazilophiles like Pat Metheny and the late Stan Getz. It also contains an excellent glossary of terms, styles, instruments, etc, that might otherwise mystify the reader new to the music.

Samba (Alma Guillermoprieto, £5.99) as its name suggests, is more specific in its Brazilian focus recounting the author’s experience living in a Rio • favela alongside one of the city’s leading Samba schools. In terms of size the Samba School operation, like many other similar schools is massive, being neither simply an educational or performance group, but a combination of both functions and much more. The mega-scale of the school’s pre-Carnival preparations in vividly portrayed, so too the essential component parts (eg Baleria, Dancers, Costume Makers, designers) making each chapter a colourful snapshot of the daily life of these various wings of the school. While dealing with the history and politics of Rio Samba the author’s style succeeds admirably in capturing the poetry and rhythm of the subject.

While The Latin Tinge (John Storm Roberts, Oxford University Press £10.95) touches on Brazilian music, so too Mexican Music, his book is none the less regarded as a classic for its examination of the rise of Cuban and Puerto Rican music from the turn of the century to the rise of Newyorican Salsa in the ’70s. The author sifts through the archives, unearthing some fascinating source material as well as interviewing many top Latin musicians, arrangers, promoters who have been at the cutting edge of Latin music in the United States. The impact of the evolving Latin styles and fads (eg boogaloo, charanga, mambo) on the North American music scene are examined with a fine-tooth comb. So too, the close affinity between Afro-Cuban music and jazz. Much has happened in the twelve years following its publication (for example the rise of Colombian Salsa), but it remains a seminal piece of work still acclaimed as such by leading salseros and with an extensive discography to boot, its an indispensable source for all Latin music fans.

Brian Parsons aka Zuppa Inglese