Ira Kris

Jazzanova

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Though it wasn't recorded until 1971, Ira Kris' Jazzanova is one of the true delights to come out of the post-bossa nova era. Kris, an expat American jazz guitarist, and countryman flutist Frank St. Peter had moved to Munich and begun studying the South American rhythms and folk forms they'd loved since the '50s with Venezuelan guitarist Juan Romero. It proved to be a cultural exchange because the American duo taught Romero jazz improvisation. Forming a trio, they played club gigs in Munich and Stuttgart. In Germany bossa nova had come into style a little later than it had in America or France, and it was still being played on the radio as well as in clubs. After signing a one-album deal with MPS, the trio drafted another pair of expatriate Americans: the great bassist Jimmy Woode (of Clarke-Boland Big Band fame) and drummer Tony Inzalaco. The indisputable highlight on the set is Edú Lobo's "Reza" (one of two tunes by him), which includes stellar solos from both guitarists (Kris on electric and Romero's nylon-string). The burning interplay kicks the samba groove hard with rock-steady percussion and Woode's inventive rhythm-stretching bass strings. Other highlights include two Baden Powell tunes, the opener "Canto de Ossanha" and "Canto de Iemanja," the twinned melody lines on the latter between flute and electric guitar awe-inspiring. The slippery groove in Kris' "Juanito" is laid-back and sultry, and adds just enough of a blues vibe to seamlessly wed blues and West Coast jazz to bossa -- Woode's fat, earthy comping is a knockout and St. Peter's command of the lyric melody is so fluid and humid, it's a wonder this wasn't a hit single. Jazzanova might have been a one-off, but it stands as one of the top-tier entries in the mighty MPS catalog.

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