Bossacucanova / Roberto Menescal

Bossa Got the Blues

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Electro-bossa pioneers Bossacucanova are not exactly prolific: They've issued only a handful of studio albums since 2001. These very busy individuals -- Márcio Menescal, Alexandre Moreira, and DJ Marcelinho da Lua -- usually reassemble only when they have a new aesthetic concept to explore. With 2014's Our Kind of Bossa, that concept was employing singers, including the legendary Os Cariocas. Bossacucanova comes full circle with Bossa Got the Blues, an instrumental collection that features Menescal's father, guitar virtuosos, and composer Roberto Menescal reprising the roles of composer and guitarist from their 2001 hit debut offering Brasilidade. While he has been present on each of the group's records, his prominence here is keenly felt: he wrote and plays on all ten tunes.

Cut in a slew of Rio studios through 2018, this date uses the American blues form in a futurist, jazzy meld of bossa and samba beats and melodies, acid jazz, contemporary funk, and retro disco adorned with canny samples, a plethora of organic instruments, analog keyboards, and a truckload of electronica and digital dub. First single "1937" (titled for the year of Roberto Menescal's birth) was produced and mixed by Moogie Canazio, and features the brass stylings -- trumpet, trombone and flugelhorn -- of the late Paulinho Trompete, who died soon after working on this track in particular. With its batacuda drumming, Hammond B-3, staggered, syncopated horns, and dubwise effects, a funky clavinet dialogues the 12-bar blues with horns, samba rhythms, and expansive jazz-drenched harmonies inside its swinging melody. Other notable guests here include woodwind maestro Carlos Malta on piccolo, fife, and C-bass flute, Sidinho and Ian Moreira on percussion, harmonicist Flavio Guimarães, vibist Jota Moraes, Leo Gandelman on brass and baritone and tenor saxes, and the Rio Maracatu Bloco de Carnaval band. The latter brought Northeastern Brazilian sounds to the album. "Train to Ipanema" commences with sirens and whistles before breaking into deep-grooving syncopated beats as Menescal's fluid and luxuriant guitar riffs shine through layers of sparkling bossa beats and a breezy, sensual melody. "Blue Bossa" reflects the composer's love of T-Bone Walker as rich, warm, and soulful jump-blues guitar dialogues with fat saxophones amid clipped, syncopated samba snares, a punchy B-3, and a melodic bassline. "Blues Bossa" is shot through with the influence of arranger Gerald Wilson (circa his California Soul offering), with finger-popping horns, swinging snares and hi-hats, biting guitar and vibes, framed by organic percussion and a meaty synth bass. "Laudir's Theme" (penned for the late percussionist Laudir de Oliveira) offers a gratuitous nod to Quincy Jones (circa the mid- to late '60s) and could easily serve as a funky, vintage TV theme (think Sanford & Son), whereas the title track offers the punchy, jazzing blues of the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Sextet if Wes Montgomery was its guitarist. The tune's airy stroll is complemented by stacked keyboard and wind harmonies accented by elegantly sampled bossa beats and wonky synths; it's among the album's highlights. On the hip yet accessibly experimental Bossa Got the Blues, bossa nova gains heft and dimension as modern dance music. As Roberto Menescal, Bossacucanova, and guests blend American Blues textures with jazz syncopation and harmony, and flagship Brazilian music, they deliver a new global soundscape as cross-cultural fusion.

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