Graded on a Curve: The Brasileiro Treasure Box of Funk and Soul

The latest effort from the reliable Boston label Cultures of Soul gives those craving a dose of funky Brazil a reason to cheer, and fans shouldering a love for 7-inch vinyl might want to climb atop a roof and shout; The Brasileiro Treasure Box of Funk and Soul contains seven 45s in a glossy case with a poster and a booklet to boot. Featuring such heavyweights as Toni Tornado, Emilio Santiago, Tom Zé, Celia, and Dom Salvador, an ample level of quality is basically assured. Also available in a compact disc edition, the set’s out on October 23.

Earlier in 2015, Cultures of Soul released The Brazilian Boogie Connection: From Rio to San Paulo 1976-83, a collection compiled and produced by noted DJ and Brazilian music enthusiast Greg Caz in tandem with label-head Deano Sounds. It established the country as a disco hotbed, the 2LP fitting nicely betwixt Cultures of Soul’s prior surveys of ‘70s dance floor action, specifically two volumes each from the Caribbean and India.

The Brasileiro Treasure Box of Funk and Soul finds the imprint reaching back to Brazil’s pre-disco era of 1970-1975; the music is indeed worthy of its title as it attains the imprint’s usual standard of thoughtful assemblage. The liner notes by Caz are again succinctly informative and the booklet rounds up numerous snapshots of the original album covers.

That’s right, albums. Funk and soul was apparently undervalued by the Brazilian industry in this period, and with a few exceptions the box’s selections were initially LP cuts or b-sides. That’s the case with Antônio Carlos & Jocafi’s “Quem Vem Lá”; it bursts out of the gate wielding potent wah-pedal nastiness a bit like Pete Cosey crossbred with Carlos Santana and then merged with an aggressive horn section, locomotive rhythms and a serrated-edge voice.

Providing immediate contrast through a slower, more humid pace, cleanly plucked guitar and prominent singing is “Paz E Amor” by Os Incríveis; Caz describes them as a mixture of funk, prog and psych, and most certainly yes, but the organ grooving is also likely to chuff soul-jazz aficionados. Caz mentions Os Incríveis as substantially bigger sellers than Os Mutantes, and I can easily believe it.

Cited in the text as a musician/actor, the sheer chutzpah of Toni Tornado’s “Bochechuda” and “Aposta” makes the assertion plain; the former throttles forth with uptempo brassiness and backup singers frankly reminding me of a Las Vegas revue but fused with a vocal eccentricity suggesting the aforementioned Os Mutantes, while the latter explores a mid-tempo James Brown-ian swagger to fruitful result.

Tornado’s 45 does hang on the border of “too much horn vamping,” so the subtly-jazz inflected textures of Emilio Santiago’s “Bananeira” are a welcome change of mood. Opening with a big beat, a touch of tasteful psych guitar, and a driving yet unperturbed rhythm, it’s a treat further elevated by electric piano tones and a nifty trumpet break.

Osmar Milito E Quarteto Forma’s “América Latina” was sampled by Madlib, and like the Santiago track is one of the more popular numbers here, delving into a rich bossa nova atmosphere with an almost Tropicalia-esque thrust. And leading from the high-profile to the significantly lesser-known is the duo 2001 & Beto.

Waxed in 1974, “Labirinto” possesses a wealth of spring-action funkiness amid smart horn arrangements and vocals alternating between suaveness during the verses and the emphatic (yet always in control) on the choruses. The only real problem is the severity of length, 2001 & Beto’s tune (from a 45) fading out at less than two minutes.

Even shorter (and oddly from a disc sporting one of the coolest covers glimpsed by these eyes in quite a while) is the samba-funk of “Swinga Sambaby” by Trio Mocotó, the onetime backing band of Jorge Ben; loaded with electric piano and copious hand drumming, it prematurely dissipates like the b-side it originally wasn’t.

“Jimmy, Renda-se” derives from the sophomore 1970 LP by the great Tom Zé and delivers one of The Brasileiro Treasure Box’s highpoints. Brandishing a killer riff and a palpable aura of progressiveness befitting this cornerstone figure in the Tropicalia movement, it’s a savvy addition from an underheard album (it’s been recently reissued) and reinforces Caz and Deano’s abilities as discerning compilers.

Similar to Culture of Soul’s previous installments, the various artists ambiance gets deeper as the entries amass, though in this instance the choice of 45s does offer the listener a more fluid approach. Backing Tom Zé’s a-side is Eduardo Araujo’s “Kizumbau,” and the organ and guitar-infused hunk of what Caz calls “macumba-psych-groove rock” exudes considerable stomping intensity.

But after adequate deliberation the standout track corralled by this set belongs to Celia, her “A Hora é Essa” an exquisite exercise in layered funk expertly arranged by Arthur Verocai. The rhythm is cooking, the piano is doing consistently interesting things, the guitar’s slinky edge sounds like it could’ve been grafted from a late ‘70s release on Ze Records, and Celia presides over it all with utter panache. A brief concluding trombone workout nods to both the J.B.’s and the funkier ‘60s sessions on Blue Note, and if “A Hora é Essa” is representative of her two early ‘70s LPs, they need reissuing fast.

“Ei, Você, Psiu!” comes from samba man Franco’s self-titled ’74 effort; fleet and erudite but not too sophisto, it goes down easy, though more appealing is the jazzy psych groove “Juventude Sexta e Sábado” courtesy of the 1970 debut by Os Novos Baianos. Structurally complex, drenched in soulful vocalizing and utilizing an organ sound seemingly on loan from Milt Buckner, it’s a solid outing.

The flip to the final 45 is culled from Dom Salvador E Abolição’s ‘71 platter Som, Sangue E Raça. Salvador’s skills as pianist and bandleader are highly regarded (it’s his group supporting Toni Tornado up above), and “Uma Vida” unsurprisingly flaunts a bold arrangement, crisp keyboard and an aura of showmanship ultimately transcending language; that the tune was performed on television makes total sense. It wraps up the program with appropriate verve as The Brasileiro Treasure Box chalks up another success for Cultures of Soul.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text