Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Raul de Souza: "Sweet Lucy" and "Don't Ask My Neighbors" reissued on CD today

Two cult albums recorded in California in the late '70s, for Capitol Records, by Brazil's top trombonist ever, Raul de Souza, are coming out today on CD. In Japan, of course. Both were produced by George Duke and engineered by Kerry McNabb at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, having reached the Billboard jazz charts.

"Sweet Lucy" (1977) was Raul's groundbreaking debut fusion album for Capitol, after the overlooked jazz masterpiece "Colors" (produced by Airto Moreira in 1974 with such guests as Cannonball Adderley, J.J. Johnson, Jack DeJohnette & Richard Davis, and released in 1975 on the Milestone label), which was produced by Arnaldo DeSouteiro for CD reissue in 1999 as part of Fantasy's Original Jazz Classics series; btw, DeSouteiro also produced, in 2001, for BMG, the first CD reissue ever of Raul's debut album as a leader in Brazil, "À Vontade Mesmo" (RCA, 1965). He also was the man behind the first digital release of "Sweet Lucy" that came out in Germany, on the EMI Electrola label back in the early 90s, but soon was sold-out and, oddly, was never re-printed, becoming one of the most expensive out-of-print CDs in jazz history.

Its title track, released as a 45rpm single in the USA and as 12"EP in Europe, became a dancefloor hit during the disco years. The album also includes a funky version of João Donato's "Banana Tree" ("Bananeira" aka "Vila Grazia"), Lonnie Liston Smith's "A Song of Love," and three strong originals by Raul: the gorgeous ballad "Wild and Shy" (featuring Freddie Hubbard on flugelhorn), "At Will" (an electrified remake of "À Vontade Mesmo") and the epic "Bottom Heat." Patrice Rushen, Byron Miller, Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, Ian Underwood, Airto and Earth Wind & Fire's guitarist Al Mckay are among the sidemen. Due to contractual reasons, George Duke performs on three tracks using the nickname Dawilli Gonga, while Weather Report's bassist Alphonso Johnson is credited as Embamba. "Don't Ask My Neighbors," which is being reissued on CD for the very first time, originally came out in 1978 and also sold very well, peaking at #26 in the Billboard Jazz Charts. Its main single, George Duke's penned "Daisy Mae," was the only track (from that album) included in some CD compilations released in Europe during the 90s, after having reached the status of a dancefloor classic during the acid-jazz heyday. The program includes Skip Scarborough's delightful title track (a hit for The Emotions) on which Raul showcases his creative phrasing skills on the tenor-bass trombone, Harvey Mason's "La La Song" (the first time ever he used the Souzabone on a recording!), a wildly brilliant arrangement - by Raul himself - of Wayne Shorter's "Beauty and the Beast" (originally heard on the "Native Dancer" LP), nice covers of Michel Colombier's "Overture" and Michael Henderson's "At The Concert," plus two compositions by our trombone hero: "Jump Street" and "Fortune," the latter co-written with Marilyn Castles, his American wife at that time.

Once again, Raul performs with an all-star cast: Harvey Mason, Ndugu, Azar Lawrence, Manolo Badrena, Airto, Byron Miller, Robert "Pops" Popwell, and two great guitarists from the '70s jazz scene that later disappeared: Roland Bautista (who performed at the Rio/Monterey Jazz Festival in Rio de Janeiro, back in 1980, in an all-star group with Raul de Souza, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Ndugu and Airto) and Charles "Icarus" Johnson (who played with Duke's superband, alongside Sheila Escovedo, at the first São Paulo/Montreux Jazz Fest in São Paulo in 1978, and also recorded on Airto's "I'm Fine. How Are You" album for Warner.) Raul's third and final album for Capitol, "'Til Tomorrow Comes," a controversial disco session, remains unreleased on CD format, but shall be reissued in 2012.

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