Various Artists Nicola Conte Presents Viagem 4 Review

Compilation. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

A marriage of jazz and Brazilian music made in heaven.

Kevin Le Gendre 2012

“Lost Bossa and Samba Jazz Classics from the Swinging Brazilian 60s” is about as sharp a subtitle for this excellent compilation as could be hoped for. And yet one might also cite a bit of simple statistical trivia, which is just as meaningful, albeit in a more lateral way.

Nicola Conte, highly respected DJ, vinyl sleuth and artist in his own right, has hand-picked 17 tracks that all make for a running order of just over 40 minutes. In other words, this is a very concise collection. Viagem 4, however, does not appear at all under length.

That is because of the enormous detail packed into each piece, which come in at just under three minutes each but feel a lot longer. A second or third listen lays bare both the art and science: recorded between 1962 and 1970, the tracks are much more than "tunes". They are proper compositions with arrangements. That is to say: substantial harmonic colour, richly voiced chords, changes of key, myriad parts for rhythm section, horns and voices, and a strong sense of narrative. They are short stories that are long on ideas.

While some of the themes, such as Consolacao, Outra Vez and Upa Neguinho will be only too familiar to adepts of Brazilian music, the names of, respectively, Myrzo Barroso, Bossa Jazz 3 and Quarteto de Bruno Solis may well not be. And, despite being some 50 years old, the sheer zest and freshness of the sounds is hard to resist.

Although the blend of big band music, with its bustling swing, and Afro-samba, with its rustling percussion, is one of the great defining features of the majority of tracks, the use of close vocal harmonies brings both a drama and romance to several pieces. Never is this more apparent than on Quarteto 004’s quite dazzling O Morro Nao Tem Vez.

If the marriage of jazz and Brazilian music is one made in heaven, then this is a set of sophisticated yet earthy wedding songs of the highest order.

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