various artists,
Brazilian Groove
(Putumayo, 2003)

Few countries can escape the world music tornado. African and Serbian musicians take jazz solos. American jazz players in turn use everything from Klezmer to Cuban. Now Putumayo has documented the effects of modern sounds from other countries on traditional Brazilian pop.

Techno-pop is the most prominent update for the samba players on this release. Soul, funk and R&B make guest appearances. It's a cool idea and many tracks work, but not all the marriages were made in heaven. The best Brazilian pop is sexy, sometimes languorous and lilting, other times bouncy and swaying. Except for sexy, the best techno-pop is almost the opposite, driven and repetitively hypnotic.

Producer Dan Storper has given it a good shot. There's a great mix of talent. Solid drum tracks combine with well-played guitars. Even the sequence is thoughtfully done. Electronic elements seem more prominent as the program unfolds. The first tune is in a clear line from Gil and Nascimento. Rosalia de Souza sings "Maria Moita" as a bossa nova while DJ Nicola Conte adds a relatively subtle club beat. It's the best cut. The 12th and last track, "Coco do Mundo," gets the hips moving too, though its more insistent club beat moves it far away in style -- some of the Brazilians of Electro Coco are actually Dutch. Jazz Gang goes even further and is all Italian. Closer to St. Germain than Gilberto, their "Linda Cancao" would go over better in a European club than a Brazilian favella, but it's another fine track.

In other words, the extremes work well. What's in between offers more mixed results. The low point is reached with "Mas Que Nada" performed by Bab & Rolando 808. DJ Alioume Ba and singer Rolando Farias have a modern, darker edge that doesn't fare well in a comparison with the ebullient style of Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66.

Back to winners, Mah de Castro uses a five piece horn section influenced by the arrangements of Stevie Wonder. The funky tune de Castro sings may win the award for longest title of this or most any other year: "A Historia da Morena Mua Que Abalou as Estruturas do Esplendor do Carnaval," or roughly "The Story of the Man Who Shook Up Carnaval."

Technology rather than a man is shaking up music. CD distribution and the Internet bring local musicians the rest of the world. Brazilian Groove shows they sometimes lose what's best in their own tradition, but just as often find a combination of old and new that opens up exciting possibilities. It's a great time to be in the music business and I admire the way Putumayo is keeping us up to date. Brazilian fans should check this one out.

- Rambles
written by Ron Bierman
published 26 June 2004

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