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Bill Potts: 'How Insensitive'

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Bill Potts
One of the rarest albums by pianist-arranger Bill Potts is How Insensitive (Decca). It was recorded by Brasilia Nueve (New Brazil)—a studio band assembled in New York in May 1967. The album seems to have been intended as an Easy Listening entry, but like all things by Potts, the album shows exceptional arranging and smarts.

So who was in this one-shot Brasilia Nueve band? Oh, just the cream of the New York studio scene in need of a few bucks in the Jefferson Airplane era: Marky Markowitz (tp), Zoot Sims (ts), Tito Puente (vib), Bill Potts (p,arr), Barry Galbraith, Tony Gottuso (g), Richard Davis (b), Mel Lewis (d), Chino Pozo (cga), Louie Ramirez (perc) and Charlie Palmieri (cabasa). [Photo above of Zoot Sims]

Interestingly, the liner notes didn't hide a thing. Written by jazz critic Stanley Dance, the notes include a box by Sammy Cahn, who says, “I am sure you must now be aware that extravagant praise for Bill Potts and his great talent is a personal thing with me." My guess is the album was assembled in the wake of the A Man and a Woman movie soundtrack being nominated for “Best Original Score" at both the BAFTA Awards and Golden Globe Awards in '67. The film's bossa nova score was by Francis Lai, and one of his songs, Baden Powell's Samba Da Bencao is here as My Heart Loves the Samba.

On How Insensitive, Sims is the star of the show. By 1967, Sims had already recorded two magnificent bossa nova albums—New Beat Bossa Nova, Vols. 1 and 2, for Colpix in August and October of 1962, just months after Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd had recorded the hit album Jazz Samba. On How Insensitive, Sims has a big, swinging sound that isn't as yearning as Getz's but still remains breezy and melodic without loading up on an endless string of fluid runs. Markowitz, meanwhile, plays the role of Bobby Hackett here, with lines that gracefully circle the melody. And Potts on piano is exceptional, often doubling up with Puente.

Interestingly, none of the Latin percussion players are Brazilian. Tito Puente, Charlie Palmieri and Louie Ramirez were from New York, and Chino Pozo was from Cuba.

Unfortunately, this album has not been released digitally in the U.S., only in Japan. I did find LP versions at eBay.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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