Thursday, December 1, 2011

Vocal CD Reissue of the Month - "Pacífico Mascarenhas: IV Sambacana"

Vocal CD Reissue of the Month
Pacífico Mascarenhas: "IV Sambacana" (Tapecar/Think Records) 1976/2011

***** (musical performance)
**** (recording & mix)
*** (remastering)
Total Time 30:52

Sambacana's best album ever. Period.
Since the beginning of his career, Belo Horizonte-born composer Pacífico Mascarenhas developed an unusual method of work. Although he plays both piano and acoustic guitar, Pacífico never took part as a musician in any of the albums of the Sambacana group that he founded back in 1965. So, it could be called a "ghost-act," since its leader always invited different musicians to each and every Sambacana project.

This fourth Sambacana album, originally released in Brazil by the Tapecar label back in 1976, and now reissued in Japan by Think! Records, is pure delight. For the proceedings, Pacífico invited two great singers -- the brother & sister duo of Roberto Tostes (aka Bob Tostes) and Suzana Tostes Martins -- and assembled a phenomenal cast of players, with keyboardist Wagner Tiso taking care of the inspired arrangements. The repertoire consists of nine new originals composed by Pacífico specially for those sessions, plus the remakes of "Pouca Duração" (originally included on Sambacana's debut album) at the suggestion of vocalist Bob Tostes, "O Vento Que Soprou" and "Tom da Canção."

The group also includes Toninho Horta (electric guitar), Novelli (electric bass), Nivaldo Ornelas (soprano sax & flutes), Laercio Villar (drums), Afonso Maluf (congas & percussion), and the great multi-instrumentalist André Dequech (heard here only on violin in some tracks). All of them in their creative heyday, specially Tiso, and playing with an incredible sense of swing, often in a latin-bossa mood reminiscent of João Donato's best years.

It's funny, pleasant and intriguing to see how much Tiso sounds like a young Donato when groovin' and even when soloing on the opening track, "Num Desses Dias." Afonso Maluf, currently nowhere to be found, adds congas and guiro in the final part of that lovely song, wisely giving a latin spice to it. Throught the album, Laercio Villar, another figure that seems to have disappeared from the face of Earth, plays with great energy, a la Robertinho Silva sometimes, but in a softer way.

All instrumental solos - mostly by Ornelas and Tiso - are short, but impeccable. The grooves are varied and exciting, with infectious riffs. And the recording-mixing quality is excellent, although the engineer and the studio were oddly never credited in the original LP, and still remain a mistery. One more reason to regret that, instead of using the original master tapes, this reissue was remastered from a (very used) vinyl source -- actually, the first CD reissue, released only in Brazil five years ago by Pacífico himself, was transferred to digital from a worst vinyl copy, with serious problems of rotation and distortion.

The Japanese CD reproduces the original cover art, including the great shot of Pacífico driving one of the old cars from his big collection of Fords, Chevys etc. Milton Nascimento, who debuted on Sambacana's second album, wrote the liner notes for the LP, while Bob Tostes added a new text to the booklet of this CD reissue.

Btw, Suzana & Bob Tostes (the best Sambacana vocalists ever) are the ice of the cake, creatively phrasing in a joyful and soulful way. Their voices are pure velvet, with Bob sounding like a Brazilian Mel Tormé. Suzana sings and ennunciates much better than most of the bossa nova vocalists that became famous. As a duo, Suzana & Bob certainly could have achieved worldwide fame if they had moved to Rio or São Paulo, but never left their hometown, Belo Horizonte, where they continue to perform in a regular basis. Their singing on "IV Sambacana" are among the Top 10 vocal performances in bossa nova albums of anytime.

There are many pretty songs, but my favorite ones are "Num Desses Dias," "Programa no Domingo," "Prezada Amada," "O Vento Que Soprou" (Novelli stands out), "Minha Ex-Namorada" (another latin-tinged gem on which Maluf excells), the new arrangement of "Pouca Duração" (a song I included in the "What a Wonderful Bossa World" CD that I produced for singer-bassist Anna Ly in 2006) and the sophisticated jazz-waltz "Minha Cidade." What an album!

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