Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Three Manfredo Fest CDs reissued today

Today, November 21st, really seems to be a blessed today for jazz and Brazilian music fans. The Japanese label P-Vine is reissuing three cult albums by the late Brazilian pianist-arranger-composer Manfredo Fest (1936-1999). All came out on indepent labels during the 70s, never received widespread distribution and became collectors' items during the dancefloor jazz heyday. Some months ago, Manfredo's son, guitarist Phil Fest, signed a deal with P-Vine to have them released on CD for the very first time. The only "problem" is that they were transferred to digital from vinyl LP sources, since the master tapes weren't found.

"After Hours - Introducing Manfredo Fest and His Piano Portraits," Fest's debut as a leader in the USA (he had previously recorded in Brazil for RGE, and in the USA as a member of Bossa Rio) was originally recorded on February 23 & 24, 1972 @ Sound 80 Studios, in Minneapolis, for Bobby Weiss' Daybreak label. Produced by Sonny Burke, the same guy who took care of the production of the first Sinatra-Jobim album in 1967 for Reprise ("Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim"), it showcases Fest mainly on acoustic piano, leading a 10-piece combo in an easy-listening mood. The program ranges from a jazz standard ("Midnight Sun," co-written by Burke, Lionel Hampton and Johnny Mercer) to a Beatles hit (George Harrison's "Something") to Jobim's "Bonita" and Manfredo's own "Bossa Rock Blues #1." There's also such mellow tunes as "Sleepy Shores" and "Love Story," the latter in a strange up-tempo arrangement.
"Brazilian Dorian Dream," cut in 1976 for T&M Productions, also at that same Sound 80 Studios in Minneapolis, remains Manfredo Fest's masterpiece. He leads a quartet with bassist Thomas Kini (from New Zealand), drummer-percussionist Alejo Poveda (from Costa Rica) and the fantastic American singer Roberta Davis, who does wordless vocals in unison with the intrincate keyboard lines. Fest is heard on the Fender Rhodes electric piano and several synthesizers programmed by Roger Dumas. All seven tracks are Fest's originals, except Richard Rodgers' "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," an old favorite of him, and a tune he would later record twice for Tabu and DMP. The title track is an acid-jazz hymn.
The third album, "Manifestations," was born in 1978 @ The Total Experience Studios in Hollywood and @ Kendun Recorders in Burbank. Produced for the Tabu label by Jerry Peters, who also arranged the date with Bill Holman, it reflects the disco-music heyday and was Fest's high-budget project ever, with large horn and string sections. The all-star team includes three other Brazilian musicians (drummer Claudio Slon, acoustic guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves and percussionist Laudir de Oliveira), bassists Abe Laboriel and Jim Hughart, electric guitarists Lee Ritenour, Tim May and Jay Graydon, Buddy Collette on reeds, Jerry Hey and Oscar Brashear on trumpets, Maurice Spears on trombone, and the legendary harpist Dorothy Ashby. Clark Spangler, who used to work with Lalo Schifrin, did the synthesizers programming. A new take on "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" opens the disc, followed by some Fest's originals ("Jungle Kitten," "Arigo" and "Who Needs It"), Peters' "Koko and Leeroe" and a disco version of Bach's "Prelude & Fugue #2." Dated but exciting.

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