This list was originally intended to be a “Five Most Important Brazilian Albums”. But that quickly turned into an impossible task. Attempting to choose the five most important Brazilian albums is akin to trying to pick the five most important jazz albums; totally subjective, and nearly impossible. Picking my five personal favorite Brazilian albums didn’t prove much easier. So I thought it might be fun to simply present “Five Great Brazilian Records You May Not Have Heard Before”. These albums are pretty well known in Brazil, and maybe amongst fellow Brazilian music nerds like myself, but the casual listener of Antônio Carlos Jobim or Sergio Mendes may not have heard them before, and are subsequently in for a treat.
The first time I traveled to Brazil I knew very little about the music, but was so hungry for it that I took an empty duffle bag with me to fill with CDs to bring back. The albums on this list came out of that duffle bag. I hope you enjoy discovering these album as much as I did.
Edison Machado é Samba Novo
Considering he’s the father of samba drumming on the drum set, Edison Machado is wildly under appreciated. The story goes that Edison was playing a caixa (snare drum) on a gig one night, when the drum head suddenly broke. He immediately starting playing the caixa rhythm on a cymbal and Samba no Prato (samba on the cymbals) was born. Machado has appeared on numerous Brazilian records including some of the earliest Bossa Nova records, with the likes of Antônio Carlos Jobim, Elis Regina and Edu Lobo amongst many others. Edison Machado e Samba Novo is his big band record as a leader and is considered to be one of the most important instrumental Brazilian records ever made. Machado died in 1990 in relative obscurity, and has only recently begun to be appreciated again for his enormous contributions to Brazilian music.
While the cool, guitar based sound of Bossa Nova was sweeping Brazil and the States, a harder-edged, jazz-influenced sound was also coming out of Rio and São Paulo, often in the piano trio format. Think Blue Note piano trio sound, but with driving samba rhythms. Edison Machado was in a few of these groups, including Bossa Três and the Rio 65 Trio. But the first of these albums I ever heard which continues to be special to me is Som Três. This trio was led by pianist/composer César Camargo Mariano. Mariano was husband to the late Elis Regina, widely considered the greatest samba singer of all time. César also produced the album Elis e Tom, which features Elis Regina and Antônio Carlos (Tom) Jobim, and is one of the most beloved Brazilian records in the world.
Foto do Satellite
Arismar do Espíritos Santos
Arismar do Espíritos Santos is a much-loved, living legend. Not only does he play guitar, bass, piano, drums, and a variety of other instruments to an extremely high level, but he is also a phenomenal composer, penning a number of tunes that are already considered standards. A comparatively recent release, Foto do Satellite, out in 2006, is a modern day classic. The opening track, “Vestido Longo” is one of the aforementioned standards.
Luz Das Cordas
Marco Pereira and Hamilton de Holanda
This album is a two for one deal, as it features Hamilton de Holanda and Marco Pereira; two incredibly virtuosic players, both of whom have fantastic projects of their own that are definitely worth checking out. Hamilton de Holanda is a composer and bandolim (Brazilian mandolin) player with an impressive discography, especially at just 42 years old. He is extremely well respected amongst his peers, evidenced by the sheer number of legendary musicians he has worked with, including Hermeto Pascoal, Joel Nascimento, and Wynton Marsalis, to name but a few. Marco Pereira is a 7-string guitarist known not only for his playing, but also as a composer and educator. On Luz Das Cordas the pair have recorded beautiful renditions of some classic Brazilian repertoire with an absolute A-team of side men.
Passo De Anjo
Most of the music on this list comes from Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, and is pretty firmly rooted in the samba tradition. The Spokfrevo Orquestra, however, hail from the northeast of Brazil, in the city of Recife, home to a completely different style of music called Frevo. Traditionally, frevo is a fast-paced, driving instrumental music making heavy use of brass. Led by saxophonist Cavalcante de Albuquerque, Spok, for short, has modernized the genre, blending frevo with the big band sound. On stage, they look pretty much like any other big band; trumpet, trombone and sax sections, and a full rhythm section. Sonically, however, they blend the two styles perfectly, ripping lightning-fast bebop lines and improvisations over burning frevo rhythms with jaw-dropping precision.