Monday, October 26, 2009

The Count's California Count-Down - Side A & B

UPDATE: Now both sides of the mix are up for your listening pleasure!

Happy Monday, Soul Spectators!

This quick little post is part one two of a mix I made this weekend for some friends who are about to embark on a West Coast Tour. Chris and Dan are gonna be escorting the Taiwanese indie-rock/pop band Won Fu on their first US tour. I was trying to imagine them bopping along the I-5 to some groovy tunes and that was my inspiration. I also wanted to use some of the great interludes from this Sesame Street record I recently copped. Keep in mind that all of the interludes used were put together with David Axelrod's help. Sure, they are not mind-blowing like his normal output, but they're pretty sweet nonetheless.

The Ambassador - The Count's California Count-Down - Side A
The Ambassador - The Count's California Count-Down - Side B

Friday, October 16, 2009

Balanço Brasileiro

There's Baile Funk, Samba Funk, Funky Samba, Brazilian Soul, Roots Samba, Bossa Nova and dozens more sub-genres of Brazilian music that swing, but today we're gonna focus on just that, the SWING. In Brazilian Portuguese, the term is "Balanço". Now, there's no real specific definition of "Balanço" but like the term suggests, its more a feeling, the way a song moves. I think this term became popularized in the early-to-mid sixties when the instrumental Bossa Jazz trios were in swinging in full fore, such as Tamba Trio, Jongo Trio, Bossa Três and many others. These groups were melodic, but they also SWUNG HARD.

Around this time you also have "dance music" purveyors, like Ed Lincoln with his organ and his swinging dance records. One of Ed's main men and occasional vocalist was Orlandivo, who first started recording in the early 60s. He made a couple albums in the early-to-mid sixties and then not another solo record until the 1977 album he did with João Donato (see below). He was a vocalist, percussionist and song writer.

One of Orlandivo's best known songs is featured today in four versions, "Tamanco No Samba". The direct translation means "Clog in Samba", but clog like the wooden shoe, not what's backing up your drain. If someone knows what this is referring to, please chime in. A quick glance at the lyrics suggests the song is about the sound a woman makes when dancing the samba wearing clogs - a bonus percussive element to the samba. Works for me.

Anyways, this is a sleeper favorite from Orlandivo's 1977 album, which is chock full of great tunes and then I found it retitled as "Samba Blim" from the Tamba 4 album of the same name on A&M from 1968. The drummer from Tamba 4, Helcio Milito, often appears alongside Orlandivo on various album credits throughout the years, so I'm guessing they go way back. Next, I heard another cover on the beautiful 70s bossa vocal jazz album Aquarius and then my main man Cal Tjader covered the tune with help from Airto on his "Amazonas" album. And with that, I bring you "Tamanco No Samba."

Tamba 4 - Samba Blim
I picked up their first A&M album "We and the Sea" awhile back but it was when my initial bossa binge was waning, so I failed to appreciate this top-shelf band making full use of the American recording environment. This, their second and final record for A&M (though rumors have it there was a third recorded - the promo single only "California Soul" being from those sessions) is really solid. They were such a versatile band for three (occasionally four) members including the singing bassist, Bebeto. I discovered this tune after knowing and loving the 1977 Orlandivo version and realized it was the same song with a different title, which was not uncommon for US releases of Brazilian tunes.

Aquarius - Tamanco No Samba
This is an extremely rare record that has more than a little in common with the criminally underrated duo of Burnier & Cartier. Cartier is absent on this one, but Octavio Burner and his wife Sonia are all over this and the sound is very similar to their albums and then there are two of their compositions on here. Overall, this is a lovely mid-seventies Bossa Nova album with stunning production. You can download it here from Quimsy's blog.

Orlandivo - Tamanco No Samba
One of the best albums of the 70s for my money. Orlandivo's songs and laid-back vocal style combined with a top-shelf band including João Donato on arrangements. Loronix has the album here.

Cal Tjader - Tamanco No Samba
Cal knew his Brazilian music and on top of that he had Airto produce this mid-seventies outing so you knew he was gonna have the Brazilian beat dialed in to perfection. This joint was recorded walking distance from where I work in Berkeley, CA.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Great Songs (Now With Lyrics!)

I am certain there are a million and one other examples of this phenomenon (classic instrumental songs getting new lyrics), but this post stems from my relatively recent fascination with jazz vocalist Mark Murphy. I never in my boringest dreams thought that I would have anything resembling a fascination with a "jazz vocalist." Sure, I showed my sensitive side in college with my "best of" Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday CDs and how can you not like a little Frank Sinatra now and then, but somehow these icons escape the labeling of "jazz vocalist". Partly, I think it's the fault of all those too-smooth (Al Jarreau), silly (Bobby McFerrin) crappy-ass jazz vocalists that are ruining it for the truly artistic and inspired examples out there still doing their thing (check out Jose James).

I first heard Mark Murphy on a mix made by my man Greg Caz. The song was "Sunday in New York" and no doubt the slightly funky rhythm section, hot horns and because I lived in NYC at the time allowed me to listen deeper. After a few listens it was all about Mark's vocal style and delivery. I've been tracking down his catalog ever since. Something I noticed on a few of his albums was how he would take a classic jazz track and write lyrics for it so that the listener could immediately relate to the tune, but now there was a new element, a new soloist doing their thing in an unfamiliar way over a familiar song. Sure, there's "Watermelon Man" with its latin/vocal version by Mongo Santamaria (though there aren't many words to this lyric, "Hey, Watermelon Man!") or Carmen McCrae's vocal take on "Take Five", but Mark picks some tracks that clairvoyantly speak to the hip-hop generation as they are classic sample cuts. But before we get into some "serious" jazz music, I asked my co-worker, Eric, for any ideas on this theme and he suggested this classic lyrical interpretation of a familiar instrumental tune:

Mark Murphy - On the Red Clay
This is a killer album, possibly my favorite of Mark's so far and it took me getting out-bid a couple times before I secured my own copy. While the Freddie Hubbard version (below) is not the one that Tribe sampled (that was Jack Wilkins), it's a great tune and I feel Mark really captures the energy of the song taking only the title and extrapolating from there.

Mark Murphy - Canteloupe Island
A more obvious choice, but a great song nonetheless and Mark's lyrics seem to fit the tropical mood painted by Herbie's original version.

Mark Murphy - Sly
This was a strange choice I thought as "Sly" was not an obvious pick from Herbie's classic "Headhunters" album, but Mark really finds a bouncing vocal style to play around with Herbie's musical structure. This is from another great album my Mark Murphy that features one of the best versions of Tom Jobim's "Waters of March". Please chime in on the comments if you have any favorite instrumentals-turned-vocal tunes.