Over the last few years, there’s been a resurgence in interest in Brazilian music. Record companies have noticed this. They’ve released a whole raft of compilations of Brazilian music. For anyone who loves Brazilian music, this should be a bonus. Sadly, that’s not the case. Many of these compilations are somewhat predictable. They feature the same familiar and tired tracks. If you’ve heard one of these compilations, you’ve heard them all. This is no different to other musical genres. 

Far too often, whenever a music genre is popular, record companies jump on the bandwagon. They forget about quality control and the compilations is rushed out. Everything is done on the cheap. How it works, is like this. Usually, the label manager hires one of his friends whose down on his luck. As for the album cover and packing, it’s done cheaply. Usually, there’s no sleeve-notes. That’s an expense that can be spared. If sleeve-notes are required, they’re written by a musical historian, whose more than happy to share their love of music. They’ll receive a fee, eventually. Then there’s the sound quality. Again, it’s done cheaply, as long as it’s as it’s loud, it’ll be fine. Often, it’s hard to decide whether the tracks have been mastered. What I’ve described is the compilation market at its worse. Yes, this actually happens. This is they type of compilation that’s usually sold within a supermarket. You know the type, those cheap and tacky multi-disc, genre specific box sets. Thankfully, not all compilations are like this.

No. There are still record labels releasing quality compilations. They take pride and care in their releases. Their releases are of the highest quality. This includes labels like Ace Records, BBE Music, Strut, Analog Africa, Soul Jazz Records and Mr. Bongo. To that list I’d add Far Out Recordings, who recently released one of the best compilations of Brazilian music of 2013, Nicole Conte Presents Viagem 5.

Recently, Nicole Conte, Italy’s jazz don, compiled another compilation of bossa and samba for Far Out Recordings. Nicole Conte Presents Viagem 5 is no ordinary compilation. No. It’s a compilation of lost bossa and samba classics from the swinging sixties. Featuring seventeen tracks, there’s contributions from Quarteto 004, Berimbau, Balaio, Zana, Zana and Crepusculo, this is the fifth volume of samba and bossa nova from Italy’s jazz don Nicola Conte? Will Nicole Conte Presents Viagem 5 be the best? That’s what I’ll tell you?

My first choice from Nicole Conte Presents Viagem 5 is Quarteto 004’s Vou Te Contar. From the opening bars, the track has a quintessentially Brazilian sound. Vou Te Contar is a cover of an Antonio Carlos Jobim song. This is a track from Quarteto 004’s only album Retrato Em Branco E Preto. Released in 1969, on the Ritmos label, this I’ll tell you is a wistful, but beautiful song sung in the samba style.

Neyde Fraga’s Onda Quebrando featured on her 1065 album Mais Balanco Com Neyde Fraga. It was released on the Continental album. This was the only album Neyde ever released. Given the ethereal beauty of her vocal, this seems strange. She delivers a tender heartfelt vocal on a track where jazz and bossa nova become one.

One of the best tracks on Nicole Conte Presents Viagem 5 is Conjuncto Sergio Carvalho’s Balaio. This is a track from their album Alta Tensao. Little is known about Conjuncto Sergio Carvalho. They seem to have released just one album. Balaio is a delicious fusion of Brasilia, jazz, easy listening, funk and psychedelia. It’s a glorious melange of Hammond organ, saxophone solos and percussion that meanders along, veering between jazz-tinged, dramatic and explosive. If the rest of the album is as good as Balaio, I hope someone rereleases it.

Dr. Severino and Conjunto Subverson’s Olhou Pra Mim is another track where musical genres unite. It’s a jazz-tinged and soulful slice of bossa nova. Taken from the 1966 album Subversom, released on the P.A.T. label, it’s something of a hidden gem. Crucial to the track’s success is the vocal. It’s best described as joyous, sweet and seductive. 

Se Voce Quiser Mas Sem Bronquear featured on Elizabeth Viana’s 1969 E.P. Released on RCA Victor, this was a year after Elizabeth released her debut album, Eu, Elizabeth. It was released in 1968 on the Caravelle label. On Se Voce Quiser Mas Sem Bronquear, Elizabeth delivers a vocal that veers between feisty and sassy, impassioned and heartfelt. With flourishes of lush strings for company, it’s a tantalizing taste of a singer who should’ve enjoyed a much more successful career.

Having released two albums for Phillips, Marília Medalha, a talented singer and composer signed to RGE Discos in 1970. Her first single for RGE, was Zana, a pop infused slice of bossa nova. She delivers a heartfelt, needy vocal against a jaunty, jazzy arrangement. As the arrangement unfolds, Marília’s vocal grows in power, drama and emotion, as she breathes life and meaning into the lyrics.

Luiz Carlos Vinhas was a Brazilian pianist and composer. Born in 1940, he released five albums between 1964 and 1998. Tanganica featured on his 1968 sophomore album O Som Psicodelico. Best described as an explosive, blistering and lysergic fusion of jazz, bossa nova, rock and psychedelia, this is the best track on Nicola Conte Presents Viagem 5 and is why O Som Psicodelico deserves to be rereleased. 

Byrdsian. That’s the best way to describe Grupo Arembepe’s Iaia, which is my final choice from Nicole Conte Presents Viagem 5. Released as a single in 1974, on the Odeon label, it seems The Byrds have inspired Grupo Arembep. There’s a late sixties psychedelic sound to the track. Punchy heartfelt harmonies combine with funk, jazz and psychedelia. A truly compelling combination that’s results in a track that emotive, soulful and sometimes, dramatic.

For lovers of Brazilian music, fed up with predictable compilations, then Nicole Conte Presents Viagem 5 is a compilation that deserves to take its place in your collection. It features seventeen lost bossa nova and samba classics from the sixties. Most of the tracks on Nicole Conte Presents Viagem 5 will be new to new to all but the most discerning connoisseurs of Brazilian music. They’ll be the first step on a voyage of discovery. Once you’ve heard the seventeen tracks on Nicole Conte Presents Viagem 5, you’ll want to hear more from some of the artists. I for one, will want to hear more of Neyde Fraga, Conjuncto Sergio Carvalho, Luiz Carlos Vinhas and Grupo Arembepe. Some of these tracks show another side to Brazilian music.

Genre-melting describes some of the tracks on Nicole Conte Presents Viagem 5. Everything from bossa nova, samba, soul, funk, jazz, rock and psychedelia can be heard on the seventeen tracks. This is a world away from most of the tired and predictable compilations of Brazilian music released during 2013. Instead, the music on Nicole Conte Presents Viagem 5 is innovative, inventive and imaginative. That’s the best way to describe the music Nicola Conte has chosen. He really has surpassed himself with Nicole Conte Presents Viagem 5. It’s the best in this series that started back in 2008. While most compilations start to loose their way after five volumes, that’s not the case here. Nicole Conte Presents Viagem 5 which was recently released by Far Out Recordings is the best in the series and demonstrates why Nicola Conte is known as Italy’s jazz don. Standout Tracks: Neyde Fraga Onda Quebrando, Conjuncto Sergio Carvalho Balaio, Luiz Carlos Vinhas Tanganica and Grupo Arembepe Iaia.


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