Compiled and annotated lovingly by David McLoughlin from exhaustive research and hundreds of hours of listening, this collection of Brazilian samba is definitive in its authoritative diversity. The Rough Guides have gone after a producer who wanted to present samba as it has presented itself to the Brazilian people, not to Europe or North America. Hence there are no tunes by Jobim, Veloso, or any other easily recognizable singer to the listeners of samba as exotica. Instead, assembled here is samba by its practitioners and stars within the country of Brazil. Since the music's ancient roots go back 500 years, and the first rhythms definable as samba only appeared in the 1920s, there was considerable material to draw from, and the sources needed to be narrowed down to music that was relevant to today's Brazil. McLoughlin sought out both ends of the spectrum: the innovators such as Moacyr Luz, whose affinity for New Orleans jazz is incorporated in early-20th century samba, and the pop stars of the music, represented by Zizi Possim, Cartola, and Luciana Mello. With over 18 cuts, McLoughlin takes the listener on a journey inside the heart of carnival's most enduring sound, the love and dance music of the samba, where instrumental passages of virtuosity (Duo Barbieri-Schnieter with "Choro #2") are contrasted with the call-and-response primitive lyricism of Dona Ivone Lara performing with her group live at carnival. The set also includes a fairly extensive history of the samba and detailed biographies of the performers, as well as solid documentation as to which albums their particular contributions came from. The Rough Guide to Samba is an excellent introduction to new enthusiasts and the curious to be sure, but it is also a definitive document for longtime devotees of Brazil's greatest contribution to the world music literature.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek