THE MUSIC OF Brazil came to the USA with a bang in 1962 with the release of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd’s “Jazz Samba” LP, which topped the Billboard album charts. 1964’s “Getz/Gilberto”, the saxophonist’s collaboration with Bahia-born guitarist-composer Joao Gilberto, was when Brazilian musicians were taken to America’s heart. “Getz/Gilberto”, which largely comprised the songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim, had a secret weapon in the voice of Gilberto’s wife, Astrud, who sang the English language segment of ‘Girl From Ipanema’, the album’s hit single. With her chic jet-set look she seemed to epitomise a cool Rio sexiness. The LP was a massive success, winning the Grammy for Record of the Year and opening the doors for scores of Brazilian musicians to make the trip north and try their luck in America.
The height of this traffic may have been in the period as the 60s turned into the 70s. Airto Moreira and his wife Flora Purim had moved to the US in 1968 from their homeland. Moreira became the first-call Brazilian percussionist for sessions, turning up on recording dates for Cannonball Adderley, Donald Byrd and Duke Pearson, among others. He was a member of Miles Davis’ group in the wake of the recording of “Bitches Brew”, appearing on the “Live Evil” album and some of the “Jack Johnson” sessions. He became a founder-member of both Weather Report and Return To Forever. Airto’s support of other Brazilian musicians was important, encouraging them to settle in the United States and hooking them up with prospective employers. Trombonist Raul De Souza was one of these migrants. Moreira not only arranged De Souza’s record deal, but also produced his debut album.
João José Pereira de Souza was born in 1934 and grew up in the Bangu suburb of Rio De Janeiro, where his father was a pastor. He took up the trombone in his teens, encouraged and taught by a trombonist in his local church band called Geraldo. Raul was a natural and by the age of 16 he was playing in the band formed by the workers from the biggest factory in Bangu. A hard slog followed, including a stint in the army where he impressed with his musical ability. Back in Rio in 1963 he formed Bossa Rio with Sergio Mendes, the first instrumental-only bossa nova group. The album they recorded “Você Ainda Não Ouviu Nada” (You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet) is a classic. He then founded his first group as a leader, which included amongst its members Airto Moreira. They recorded an album for RCA, “Ā Vontade Mesmo”, prior to Raul moving to Monte Carlo to play a four-month stint at a casino.
On his return he formed the more progressive group Impacto 8 who recorded the album “International Hot” for the Equipe label. (On its reissue it was described as a “psychedelic funk bossa work-out”). It failed to be a commercial success and Raul moved to Mexico, where he played bossa in the clubs of Mexico City and Acapulco for four years, 1969-1972. In 1972 he moved to Los Angeles where he hooked up with Airto and Flora Purim to become a member of their touring band. He appeared on albums by the pair and on recordings by Cal Tjader and Sonny Rollins. His activity alerted Fantasy Records to his talents and the recording of his album “Colors” to be released on their Milestone label began.
In an interview with Brazilian reissue specialists whatmusic, Raul remembered the planning for the sessions. “In 1974 Airto produced “Colors”, my first…recording under my own name – Raul de Souza rather than Raulzinho – for Milestone Records. There I had the immense pleasure and honour to get to know J.J. Johnson, who agreed to do the arrangements for my compositions. I invited Jack DeJohnette, Richard Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Ted Lo and all those guys to play on the record and it was really a great experience for me.” It is a fine example of the fusion between Brazilian music and jazz. The first side opens with a fine arrangement of Moacir Santos’ ‘Nana’ with the melody played by Raul over a tight funk groove, and his trombone being joined by massed horns courtesy of a five-piece horn section of Snooky Young, Oscar Brashear, George Bohanon, Don Waldrop and Sahib Shihab. Their presence adds a richness to the record wherever they are present. Cannonball Adderley, in what was to be one of his final appearances as a side-man, appeared on a fantastic swing jazz version of ‘Canto De Ossanha’, the second track.
‘Water Buffalo’ is a beautifully-judged number that demonstrates in its first half how well Raul could play a ballad on his instrument, before the pace gets picked up, driven by Jack DeJohnette’s pulsating drumming. The side ends off with a smooth glide through Joe Zawinul’s ‘Dr Honoris Causa’ where the horn section gives the track a lift.
‘Festival’ is a fast and furious latin groove, and has been the standout title sought after by UK collectors. It is the sound of a Brazilian carnival on record, riding along on the piano groove provided by Ted Lo, before it breaks down into a percussion work out from Kenneth Nash (when producing, Airto doesn’t play). Chick Corea’s ‘Crystal Silence’ is another opportunity for the players to show their chops; it never loses interest throughout its 11 minutes. This invigorating album then ends with the fairly fast fusion workout of ‘Chants To Burn’.
It was to be Raul De Souza’s only LP for Milestone. In 1976 the trombonist signed to Capitol Records where his albums “Sweet Lucy” and “Don’t Ask My Neighbors” were produced by George Duke, who was just beginning to flex his muscles behind the mixing desk. They were successful jazz funk recordings that sold well. His final album for Capitol “‘Til Tomorrow Comes” was produced by West Coast veteran Arthur Wright. Though there was an attempt at being more commercial, it failed to sell. It was his last attempt to break the charts.
De Souza remained in the United States until the early 90s, when he returned to Rio. In 1999 he moved to Paris. He moves between the two, recording and playing, releasing albums such as the wonderful “Bossa Eterna” from 2008, released to celebrate 50 years of the bossa nova.
DEAN RUDLAND / 2011