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Buddy Collette: Bossa Nova

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I love “jazz samba"—bossa nova albums recorded by American jazz artists in the 1960s. The bossa nova, of course, dates back to Brazil in the late 1950s. Back then, young musicians in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo cooled off the rousing samba with a drier, more laid back and sophisticated approach. Songs had infectious melodies and romantic lyrics delivered in a gentle, hushed singing style. The bossa nova leaped to the U.S. after the U.S. State Department sponsored a diplomatic tour of Brazil in 1961. The junket included the Charlie Byrd Trio. When Byrd returned to the States, he carried with him an armful of bossa nova albums. Yet he was reluctant to record the music, fearing it was too light for the U.S. market.

According to writer David Adler in a 2004 Jazz Times article, “Elena Byrd, wife of Joe Byrd and the attorney for Charlie Byrd’s estate, maintains that it was Ginny, Charlie’s late wife, who convinced her husband to do a Brazilian record. But [drummer Buddy] Deppenschmidt insists it was he who asked Ginny to aid his cause, and that she too was initially unmoved. When Byrd finally did decide to approach Riverside with the bossa nova idea, the label said no. Byrd prevailed upon Stan Getz, then a Verve artist, to take the idea to [producer] Creed Taylor, who said yes."

The first album to successfully merge jazz and the bossa nova was Jazz Samba. Recorded in February 1962 at a Washington, D.C., church and produced by Creed Taylor for Verve, Jazz Samba teamed the Charlie Byrd Trio with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz. The album was a hit and Getz won a Grammy, inspiring a wave of jazz-bossa albums by virtually every major jazz player in the early '60s. The list includes Cannonball Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, Shorty Rogers, Herbie Mann, Lionel Hampton, Paul Winter, Kenny Burrell, Coleman Hawkins, Bill Perkins, Dave Brubeck, Ike Quebec, Zoot Sims, Bud Shank, Paul Desmond and many others.

One of the least known of these jazz-bossa albums was Buddy Collette's Bossa Nova, recorded in 1961 for Los Angeles's Crown label. The flutist and saxophonist was joined by Howard Roberts (g), Jim Helms (g,arr,cond), Mel Pollan (b), Leo Acosta (d,perc) and Darias (cga). Acosta was a Mexican drummer with bossa nova experience while Rogelio Darias was from Cuba and worked extensively in Las Vegas. Helms, who died in 1991, was a West Coast composer, arranger, conductor and producer who worked on a ton of B-films and is probably best known for the theme to TV's Kung Fu.

But on this album, Helms had a golden touch. Of course, his arrangements were greatly enhanced by Buddy's warm and engaging playing. Buddy was among the busiest artists in L.A.'s movie and recording studios. His command, technique and elegance were exceptional in a town where every other musician was extraordinary. Bossa Nova has a soft and driving feel and it was recorded before Getz's monster hit, The Girl From Ipanema, was released in 1964. So the ensemble is feeling its way through the genre with Buddy playing plenty of jazz. Best of all, there are no American standards or familiar bossa novas on here. It's all brand new to the ear.

Buddy Collette died in 2010. You can read my five-part interview with him here.

JazzWax tracks: Like the other albums I've featured this week, Bossa Nova never crossed over from vinyl to digital, except in Japan. You'll find the Japanese CD at eBay for around $20. 

JazzWax clips: Here's the entire album at YouTube...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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