24 November 2006
MEIRELLES E OS COPA 7 - TROPICAL
As leader Meirelles helmed the group that added such an incredible sound to the first couple of Jorge Ben LPs - it's his sound you hear on the original Mas Que Nada. From then on Meirelles was much in-demand both as a live player and as a key session player and arranger at the same time as recording obscure titles such as Mancini Tambem é Samba. These independent recordings provided Meirelles and his cohorts the all too brief space to expand ever further into improvisation over tight jazzy arrangements. By the late 60s the bossa craze in all its forms was pretty much dead in Brazil. True to type the major labels were resorting to releasing endless LPs by pseudonymous orchestras aimed at the easy listening crowd or the 'youngsters' who wanted to dance to international 'discotheque' music. Most of these LPs were instantly forgettable, but some, like the work of ace drummer Wilson das Neves were always interesting, even if they did contain weird covers of Mary Hopkins tunes or Beatles music in march time.
This is where the LP Tropical fits in. From the Calendar Girl cover image, to the flagrant misspelling of Meirelle's own name and the lack of musicians credits, EMI's London imprint was obviously aiming Tropical squarely at the easy listening market. Step up to the challenge Mr Meirelles. Given the chance to record with an expanded line up (now called the Copa 7 but not to be confused with the 70s funk band of the same name!), Meirelles takes on songs which, although well known standards and Broadway show tunes and the like, are songs associated with his North American heroes, liberally peppered with less obvious original tunes by the likes of Horace Silver, Charles Lloyd and Julian Adderley. Instead of the usual lush and insipid covers Meirelles does the near impossible by taking on tunes like On Green Dolphin Street and Taboo and re-presenting them as if they were new works fresh from his own pen.
This version of Horace Silver's The Gringo has long been a bootleg classic with DJs and collectors, touching as it does on the sacred image of the 60s Blue Note sound. Playing only alto flute instead of his usual sax, Meirelles achieves a tone similar to that of Hermeto Paschoal of the same era. Throaty, rasping and urgent, the solos are short but incredibly well conceived and each one hits the spot exactly before returning to the statement of the theme.
Upon release Meirelle's subversion obviously worked - the record sold so badly to its target audience and at the same time was so unhip looking for the jazz crowd, that it became truly one of the rarest Brazilian LPs of the 60s, so much so, that the legendary Brazilian music writer and critic Jose Domingos Raffaelli, (who not only accompanied the birth and blooming of samba jazz but who wrote many of the original liner notes), recently confessed that he had never heard of it!
Ed Motta has said that the only music that American jazz players have ever felt 'threatened' by is the music played by Brazilians such as these. Complicated, intricate but always harmonious and rhythmically accessible, Meirelles and his group go a long way towards explaining that comment.
So, here it is, the LP Tropical, after more than 30 years, back where it belongs in the pantheon of the great and good of samba jazz classics.
J.T. Meirelles: Alto Flute
Maurilio Santos: Trumpet
Juarez Araùjo: Tenor Sax
Dom Salvador: Piano
Sergio Barroso: Bass
Robertinho Silva: Drums
Pedro dos Santos: Percussion
Helcio Milito: Percussion
Chico Batera: Percussion
Jorge Arena: Percussion
Ripped from the hard to find(at a sensible price!)whatmusic.com re-issue cd