Oscar Brown, Jr.

Finding a New Friend

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It was inevitable that a singer of a jazz-oriented style like Oscar Brown, Jr. would try his hand at the rich bossa nova repertoire that was everywhere in the early to mid-'60s. But being a creative soul, Brown took a more active hand than most did, contributing songs of his own and collaborating on others with Brazilian singer/guitarist/songwriter Luiz Henrique, whom he met at Greenwich Village's Cafe Au Go Go in August 1965. If truth be told, Brown's sly, sardonic vocal style isn't an exact fit for bossa nova; he has to rein himself in for this subtle, almost whispering idiom. But then, the songwriting collaboration works surprisingly well, mostly leaning toward a romantic '60s bossa nova idiom (the extremely seductive "Much As I Love You," "Finding a New Friend," "Seeing Maria,"), but occasionally hearkening back to Brown's North American hipster persona ("I Had No Idea," "Barra Limpa"). And they wander off the territory altogether with Brown's playfully racy bossa calypso, "Wham! Bam! Thank You Mam!" The album also includes a few Brazilian standards like "Laia Ladaia" and "Manha de Carnaval" as appetizers before the collaboration begins in earnest. The multi-talented Brazilian Santa Claus, Sivuca, is responsible for three of the soft-focused arrangements, while Henrique takes charge of the rest. This is an enjoyable detour for Brown and listeners.