Baden Powell

Baden in Prelude

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Baden Powell was an important guitarist in the early years of bossa nova, and this CD does contain 27 tracks (mostly from 1960, three from 1959) on which he plays. Be aware, however, that these are not actually recordings on which he was the billed artist when they originally appeared. The bulk of it presents two 1960 Brazilian vocal albums, in their original sequence, on which he played: Alaide Costa's Joia Moderna (for which he also did the arrangements) and Lucio Alves' A Noite Do Meu Bem. Costa's album is the more impressive of the pair, with her elegant, contained delivery well-suited toward a set of solid early bossa nova, though this doesn't swing as hard as some other records in the style from the era. Powell's guitar is prominent but blends well with the flute, trombone, piano, bass, and drums, and rings with assurance whether he's strumming ballads, picking out solos ("Sambe De Nos Dois" is a highlight), or pushing the tempo with chunky rhythmic playing. Alves' A Noite Do Meu Bem is more subdued, and Powell's guitar isn't featured as strongly, with piano and accordion taking stronger roles. The singing is less ebullient and more sedate than on the Costa cuts, which makes it the less exciting of the two featured albums on this CD by some margin, though it maintains some historical interest in the history of both bossa nova as a whole and Powell's discography in particular. Ending the disc are Elizeth Cardoso's nice, lightly swinging "Cidade do Interior," which features just her vocals and Powell's guitar, and two tracks from Miltinho e Sexteto Sideral's 1959 album Um Novo Astro. The packaging might be a little awkward (though the blurbs on the back cover make it clear that these are sessions Powell contributed to, not tracks on which Powell was the featured artist), but it's a good overview of groundbreaking work by one of the lesser-known forces of early bossa nova.

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