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Essays
Downbeat  

Electrolatin Part ll

By Fernando González

 

The success of loungey singer Bebel Gilberto not only served to call attention to the smart work of the late Sao Paulo-based producer Suba but also to highlight the obvious possibilities of bossa nova and electronics.

Bossacucanova, a trio comprising Marcelo Dalua, programming and scratching; Alexandre Moreira, programming and keyboards and Marcio Menescal, programming and bass, first came into view in the United States a few years ago with “Revisited Classics”  (Six Degrees Records 657036 1010-2), a re-working of several bossa nova tracks, some of them recorded by the original stars.

The follow up, “Brasilidade” (Ziriguiboom/Six Degrees 657036 1043-2  51:18 * * *  1/2) included both standards and original compositions. It also featured guitarist, composer, arranger and producer Roberto Menescal, an important but lesser known figure (to US audiences) in the bossa nova movement and Marcio’s father.
The disc got a second wind with a Latin GRAMMY nomination and the group’s appearance in the show doing a version of  “Garota de Ipanema” (The Girl from Ipanema”) no less.

“We have been working together for awhile and we’ve been exchanging information on what’s going on, so it became a natural mix. And we must remember bossa nova was born of a mix also,” said the elder Menescal interviewed in Los Angeles, the morning of the GRAMMY show. “It had American music, jazz and samba which we didn’t know how to play so we arranged our own way. It’s natural that today something similar happens.”

“There was always a need with bossa nova of [finding a way] how to dance it. Our concern was always playing it. But the public wants to dance. These kids are setting their foot down and showing where the groove is for dancers. For me it’s very interesting. I’m beginning to discover things I didn’t hear before. It’s liberating.”

“Harmonically, melodically what we’re doing it’s exactly the same we used to do,” says Menescal. “But you can’t go backwards you need to go forward. What I feel is that with the dance, with a younger sound, we are bringing to bossa nova a new audience, a young audience. We just want to get them hooked,” he says with a sly smile.

Zuco 103, a trio comprised of Brazilian vocalist Lilian Vieira, Dutch drummer Stefan Kruger and German keyboardist Stefan Schmid, take a wider view but with similar effect. In Tales of High Fever (Ziriguiboom/ Six Degrees 657036 1072-2 61:18  *** 1/2), the group’s second full length release, Brazilian music, while central, is one the elements in the mix. There are hints of fuji and Erikah Badu-like lite soul, samba, rap, New Orleans-style shuffles and Brazilian roots music, but it all sounds coherently organic.
In Radio Zumbido Los ultimos dias del AM (PALMCD 2091-2 38:27 * * *)

Guatemalan guitarist Juan Carlos Barrios also constructs an organic mix, but this is a prickly, engaging and provocative universe of samples, field recordings and live playing. The result at times might lean Caribbean (“El Hampa” which includes a sample of singer Ruben Blades speaking about growing up in Panama, or the delightfully sleazy “Lo-Fi Chicken Bus” ), at times psychedelia-roots or turn into  an aural documentary (“8 Hermanos” or “DJ salvacion”).

It’s a worthy trip.

 


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