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Herbie Mann: Bossa Nova '62

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Herbie Mann
Nearly two years after the fall of Cuba in 1959, Congress passed the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, which mandated an increase in governmental programs “to enhance mutual understanding between the United States and other countries." Many of those “other countries" were in Latin America. [Pictured above: Herbie Mann]

In July 1961, jazz promoter Monty Kay and Alex Valdes produced the American Jazz Festival at the Ritz Theater in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In addition, the touring band of State Department-sponsored musicians—including flutist Herbie Mann, saxophonist Paul Winter and guitarist Charlie Byrd—played Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre (Brazil), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Montevideo (Uruguay) and Santiago (Chile).

Also that year, the U.S. State Department sent guitarist Charlie Byrd, bassist Keter Betts, Byrd's wife Ginny and drummer Buddy Deppenschmidt to eight cities in Brazil—Bahia, Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Recife, Belo Horizonte and Belém. Rio was skipped because of the previous tour. [Picured above, from left: Buddy Deppenschmidt, Charlie Byrd and Keter Betts with Ginny Byrd on the far right]

Mann—an early student of World music—had become familiar with bossa nova from pianist and accordionist João Donato, who had been living in California since 1960. By the time Mann returned to the U.S. from his '61 tour, he was captivated by the melodic sound. But to experience the music up-close, Mann wanted to to return to Brazil and record with musicians there.

In the October 27, 1962 issue of Billboard, Jack Maher wrote an article entitled, “It's a Great big Bossa-Filled World We Live In, Says Almost Everybody." In the article, Maher wrote that Mann had left earlier in the month for a three-week bossa nova tour of Brazil. 

Mann had already set to work recording bossa nova in March 1962 for Atlantic—just after Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz had recorded Jazz Samba for Verve but before the album's release in April. Mann's 1962 bossa nova albums were Brazil, Bossa Nova and Blues (early 1962); Right Now (March-April 1962); and Do the Bossa Nova (Oct. 1962). 

The latter album was recorded in Rio and included individual sessions with Sergio Mendes, Antonio Carlos Jobim [pictured above], Baden Powell, Bossa Tres, Joao Gilberto and a 17-piece percussion group.

With these albums, Mann established the potential of the music for jazz musicians and arrangers. Listening to these swinging recordings today, you hear the blueprint for the samba invasion of America—made official in November '62 with a bossa nova concert at Carnegie Hall.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find all of these Herbie Mann recordings on two CDs—Herbie Mann: Brazil, Bossa Nova & Blues + Right Now here and Do the Bossa Nova with Herbie Mann. Complete Brazilian Sessions here (both Fresh Sound).

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved.

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