Samba, Strictly Speaking

Various Artists – Far out: Strictly Samba
Various Artists

Far out: Strictly Samba (Far Out Recordings FAR0137, 2009)

Samba is truly Brazil’s signature sound, but even a collection like this, with a title that makes it clear there’ll be no straying from the established order, is going to have some variation. After all, samba has been mixed with [wiki:jazz], funk, soul, rock, pop, reggae, electronica and who knows what else in its century of existence. It paved the way for bossa nova and went from being low class to high class to demographic-defying. Its African origins have been both emphasized and downplayed. < Perhaps more than anything else, Far out: Strictly Samba celebrates how resiliently infectious the music remains no matter how it’s dressed up.

Both veteran and newer artists are included, and no two state their case in quite the same manner. The rhythmic core essence is represented by tracks from Don Um and Jadir de Castro (featuring nothing but percussion) and Aparecindinha with Grupo Batuque (percussion and voices), and it’s classic samba beats that likewise drive the brassy swagger of Seu Jorge on “Carolina,” Arthur Verocai’s jazzed-up “Tudo de Bom,” The Ipanemas’ sublime Afro-bossa “Era Bom,” the quirky keyboard conversation that peppers Azymuth’s “Depois do Carnaval” and the sensual grit of such great female voices as Joyce, Teresa Cristina and Elza Soares.

Some of the names were previously unfamiliar to me, and of these it’s the up-and-coming Roge who makes the strongest impression with two songs that lyrically pay tribute to the music itself and the country from which it sprang. This isn’t an all-encompassing samba collection (no single disc could be), but it’s 16 tracks of excellence that all lovers of Brazilian music should grab.

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