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Reviews: Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd: Jazz Samba

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Reviews: 2

Review by sgb September 4, 2013 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Bossa nova, the then new music from Brazil, made its broad American appearance in the Fall of 1962, when Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd took Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Desafinado” (from the Verve album, Jazz Samba) to # 15 on the Billboard charts. To put this unusual entry into the world of pop music into perspective, The Four Seasons’ “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” had just become # 1, and the since-then-perennial Halloween favorite, “The Monster Mash,” had just made its debut. The appearance of a jazz title on the pop charts was quite a noteworthy event. By the time “Desafinado” had entered the charts, the number of songs aimed at the mature record buyer had diminished quite considerably. That is, casual music listeners of the two previous decades appear to have had much less impact on gross record sales, while pop/rock music continued its ever-increasing dominance.

Historically, the Latin influence (of which bossa nova is a later-developed form) had, perhaps, been a part of jazz since its beginnings. It did not begin its greatest popularity until the late Thirties when bandleader Xavier Cugat and singer Carmen Miranda came to national attention. From this came Afro-Cuban jazz, an amalgam of bop, swing and Latin rhythms, popularized by Dizzy Gillespie throughout the late Forties and on into the Fifties. When “The Girl From Ipanema” reached # 5 in June, 1964, bossa nova had become quite popular. The bossa nova sound was not only a reality, it was an institution that took over many a radio station play list. Washington, D.C.’s Felix Grant on WMAL, Radio 63, adopted the music almost completely, playing bossa nova throughout his program. Washington was, of course, home to Charlie Byrd, who often performed in the city’s Connecticut Avenue and Georgetown nightclubs. In the most recent decades, the Latin influence has continued its evolution through bossa nova into a fusion with jazz-rock. Indeed, the bossa nova influence can be heard even today in the music of Pat Metheney.

Noted jazz musicologist, Barry Kernfeld, has defined bossa nova as “a union of cool jazz and subdued Brazilian samba.” Kernfeld also points out that bossa nova has introduced jazz to a broader listening audience than any other form. Beyond its appeal to those with a more mature musical taste, bossa nova offered a popular music respite from the senseless iterations of trivia that, like other contemporary artforms, cast reflections of a society riddled by chaos, and depersonalized by the socio-political Left. Its melodies were soothing, and its lyrics, for the most part, remained in their original Portuguese, as if to suggest an escape from the common culture. Even when the lyrics were translated into English, they spoke of a different world with different sensibilities. It has a markedly different sound compared to the Latin jazz that preceded it: small acoustic ensembles play soft melodies in the place of large, brass-heavy bands pumping out high volume sound with a brisk tempo.

It was guitarist Charlie Byrd who started it all. Fearing that another gap between us and the Soviets might otherwise emerge, the U.S. Government sponsored a cultural exchange program with Latin American countries that was modeled after the Soviets’. When The Dave Brubeck Quartet declined the Government’s invitation, Byrd accepted the appointment, and was sent instead. In Brazil he encountered bossa nova for the first time and brought home records and sheet music he then shared with Stan Getz. They then produced this first succesful bossa nova album for an American audience (Capitol had released an earlier album by João Gilberto that went nowhere). Although it was Byrd who brought the music to the States, it is Getz who does most here to popularize bossa nova. It’s as if Getz was born to play this music, while Byrd has a little difficulty grasping its essence. Aside from “Desafinado,” Jazz Samba includes only two other tunes that became bossa nova standards: “Baia” and “One Note Samba.” It, thus, might be considered less representative of the bossa nova form at its best than those that followed. The album rose to # 1 on the Billboard album chart, and remained in the top 100 for 70 weeks.

I am one of the fortunate DCC Gold CD owners of Jazz Samba, and I must say that I've been enjoying it since its initial release. That doesn't mean that I wasn't curious about this new SACD, I was, after all, satisfied with the earlier Getz/Gilberto from Analog Productions.

If you have the DCC, be glad to know that you needn't worry that someone who bought this new SACD has anything you don't. Pick a sound characteristic: Bass? the DCC is more authoritative, and not flabby like the new SACD. Treble? Charlie Byrd's guitar string tone is far more natural sounding on the DCC, and without a trace of digital steeliness that the AP hints at. The SACD sounds a bit bombastic and overblown while there's an ease to the DCC. Even the sound stage and image are different when comparing these two, and, yes, the DCC sounds far more like my original LP.

Don't get me wrong, the SACD will be just fine if you don't have the DCC, but I could not recommend this as the new standard of sound for this recording.

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Review by Discspinner September 6, 2013 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
What is it about some music that seems best suited to group listening? Is it because of the movie where the sleazy bachelor claps his hands causing the lights to dim as a record falls onto the platter (and its inevitably Latin jazz) while the impressionable young woman looks on? Or is it that other movie where men in suits and well coiffed women in tight iridescent skirts laugh and drink in a crowded New York apartment while Latin jazz plays in the background?

Getz/Byrds Jazz Samba is a fantastic listen, even if you're by yourself. But I recommend a party.

The presentation is generally Getz's sax on the left and Byrd's guitar on the right with the space between filled by percussion and bass. Though recorded shortly after my birth, the remastering has presented us with a wonderful realistic sound, reflecting just enough of the ambience of the church recording venue to provide a natural reverb. Bass is deep and appropriate for its supporting role. Sax and guitar are rich. I don't remember hearing any drums, but otherwise the percussion has natural sounding highs without harshness. The performance is top notch.

I don't have any a/b comparisons, and am a complete newb where this album is concerned. But I love it and its sound and shall rate it accordingly. Sonically, it's pretty wonderful.

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