John Patitucci’s Dark Samba (Now Includes 96/24 Audio)

In the early 1960s Brazilian music washed up on American shores riding on an effervescent, sunlit wave of girls from Ipanema and up-tempo tunes like “Desafinado”, popularized by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd on the breakthrough album Jazz Samba.

“Desafinado” though, from that album translates into “out of tune” and that generally happy album also includes Baden Powell’s melanchoiic “Samba Triste” (“Sad Samba”). Even a seemingly innocuous song title like “Agua de Beber” (“Drinking Water”) is a dramatic, desperate love plea (“Your love is rain, my heart the flower, I need your love or I will die”).

This, the newest release from Newvelle Records is a departure both musically and sonically.

The bassist John Patitucci has assembled a trio featuring Israeli guitarist Yotam Silberstein and Brazlilian percussionist Rogerio Boccato and recorded a brooding album of songs by Milton Nascimento, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Egberto Gismonti, Chico Buarque and others that reflect a mostly darker, but no less engaging side of the country’s music.

The title tune Irmãos de Fé (“Brother of Faith”) by Mr. Nascimento from an album he released in 1967 is about an epic battle for freedom that opens with:
I'll make a silver knife
And I'll fight 'til die
But living, I really know
My people will love me

Not that you have to know the lyrics or understand their meaning to appreciate the music. If you want to start with some amazing playing, try “Desvairada”, which is an intricate up-tempo number that will have you smiling and amazed by each player’s nimbleness as well as by the trio’s breezy, lock-step togetherness.

I brought the album to High End Munich and the Los Angeles Audio Show and played in many rooms side 1’s closer Antonio Carlos Jobim’s heartbreaker “Olha Maria”. You don’t need to know the lyrics to understand the song’s meaning and even in the busy clatter of a hi-fi show each play brought the room to a literal standstill.

In some rooms Mr. Patitucci’s bowed bass produced audible sighs and in all, the song’s conclusion brought release to the mesmerized suspension among the listeners. That’s not easy at a hi-fi show!

Marc Urselli’s recording is as different from the ones he did for the label’s first season as is the music. The sonic balance is dark and brooding and the stage is almost mono, but with a profound sense of depth. Only occasionally does the percussion spread across the stage and when it does it’s for good reason.

With its warm mid-bass balance, this is not an easy record for many systems to properly handle. The real test is on “Olha Maria”. If your system turns the bowed bass to mud, don’t blame the recording! If the performance turns you into jelly, then do.

I don’t pretend to be a Brazilian music authority but the record in my collection that best goes for and succeeds in capturing this mood both musically and sonically is Herbie Mann’s overlooked 1962 release Brazil, Bossa Nova & Blues (United Artists stereo 15009). Though it opens with the uptempo chestnut “Brazil” it closes with the dark, rich “Me Faz Recorar” that’s for decades been on my “must play” list. The engineer was the late, great Bill Schwartau, and like Marc Urselli, he understands the music and its sonic needs.

Irmãos De Fé is a somewhat daring departure for the young Newvelle label. I’m glad it allowed Mr. Patitucci to realize his dark samba ambition (available only through Newvelle Records as part of the second season's subscription).

With Newvelle's kind permission, listen to "Olha Maria" transcribed from vinyl at 96/24 resolution:
Olha Maria

bkinthebk's picture

I assume not from their website ... looks like they only do season subscriptions. Hard to justify spending that dough without having a way to sample most of the music first.

This record is tempting me though.

elanmehler's picture

We have video footage from every session available here: Just scroll down to Season 2. It is currently not possible to buy single albums from the website but you can purchase albums direct from the artist at live events.

JL777's picture

I worked at a company who also had a "sales prevention department."

eFlatBlues's picture

I'm still waiting for the second LP in this season to arrive, but after viewing the video am really looking forward to this one.

elanmehler's picture

from France. Should be there any day now!

eFlatBlues's picture

Just walked into the house from work and there it is!

rshak47's picture

Interesting performances, and the quality of the recording and vinyl are superb.The pressing problems that delayed release of this title have been fixed!

Rudy's picture

If this were a single album, I would buy it. Oh well...

Superfuzz's picture

Too bad I can't buy this...