How did this all come about?
(by Luiz Barroso)
I grew up listening to my dad play the guitar and sing all sorts of Brazilian songs from the '50s and 60's. He was a trained surgeon but a self-taught amateur musician and his love of that repertoire is one of the gifts he left me. Those songs he played, and so many other old Brazilian tunes, have been old friends that have kept me company and given me comfort throughout my life. I brought those songs with me when I immigrated to the US, and my appreciation for them grew as I learned more about the Great American Songbook and its connection to that music.
The idea for this album came from diving deeper into that connection over the last seven years, in my jazz guitar study under Scott Sorkin. Scott and I worked on guitar arrangements for several American and Brazilian tunes over the years and we thought they would be worth recording. Scott had worked with Zeca Assumpção and Sergio Reze for his own album of forgotten Brazilian songs, and I mustered up the nerve to send them a couple of demos, asking if they might be interested in recording as a trio. To my shock and delight, they said 'yes'!
I was further delighted that Greg Sankovich agreed to join us as co-producer. Greg had partnered with my wife, Catherine Warner, on her own album of original songs and other projects, so he and Catherine became the producers of this release. With Greg, we fine-tuned the song selections, song forms, and arrangements for the trio. We picked nine beautiful songs, with five American Jazz tunes and four Brazilian songs that we felt showcased the pre-Bossa styles in both countries. One song, Eu e a Brisa, was actually composed years after Bossa Nova arrived, but its composer (Johnny Alf) and style is so representative of the Brazilian ballads of the 50s that I felt it belonged in that group.
In April of 2022, Catherine, Greg and I traveled to São Paulo and spent a week at Space Blues studio recording 8 of the 9 tunes with the help of recording engineer Alexandre Fontanetti. The gap in musical mileage between myself and my co-conspirators in this project was rather intimidating. Zeca's and Sergio's generosity with this rookie and their love of the music we were playing eventually settled my nerves.
We returned from Brazil with wonderful material, but with significant work to do on guitar overdubs and, most importantly, singing. I always felt I had a good voice, but I never mistook myself for a singer. Thankfully I happened to have married one! Over several months, Catherine helped me get ready to sing these songs in a way that fit the ensemble and the emotional tone of the arrangements. We hope you will enjoy these wonderful songs half as much as we enjoyed playing them.
Producer Greg Sankovich in the control room
Eu e a Brisa Johnny Alf
I Concentrate on You Cole Porter
Brasil Pandeiro Assis Valente
Speak Low Kurt Weill & Ogden Nash
Nunca Lupicínio Rodrigues
Easy Living Ralph Rainger & Leo Robin
Get out of Town Cole Porter
Never Let Me Go Jay Livingston & Ray Evans
Saudade da Bahia Dorival Caymmi
recording at Space Blues Studio in São Paulo
Luiz and Zeca
Producer Catherine Warner capturing the action
Zeca, Sergio and Luiz
A bit about the birth of Bossa Nova
The summer of 1958 was a time of optimism in Brazil. The economy was booming, the iconic, modern capital city of Brasilia was being built, and the men's national soccer team had just won their first World Cup. Also during that summer, João Gilberto released the compact single "Chega de Saudade", officially giving birth to what would later be called the Bossa Nova.
The new musical style had a rhythmic beat inherited from Samba, but much of its phrasing and harmonic complexity was inspired by American Jazz songs. The great Brazilian guitarist and composer Roberto Menescal once described to me the excitement of listening to Barney Kessel's exquisite guitar chords accompanying Julie London in her 1955 album "Julie Is Her Name", and how that influenced the music they were about to invent.
Bossa's Brazilian influences were broad and deep, including musical styles from the 19th century such as Maxixe and Choro. But it is Samba's influence that is most recognizable in Bossa songs. The mood of Samba songs from the 1950's, the "sadness that swings" (as Vinícius de Morais put it), is present in many of the earliest Bossas, but wtih a new delicacy and lightness.