As the world’s largest coffee producer, café scenes have become an integral part of Brazilian culture and landscape, as has its unique style of music, blending samba, Portuguese, bossa nova, Spanish and jazz into a unique indigenous blend. According to popular legend, Brazilian songwriters Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes were sitting in one of their favorite cafés in Ipanema, a fashionable district of Rio de Janeiro, watching all the pretty women walk by, especially the knockout from the neighborhood, Helo Pinheiro. Their ode to her has become a timeless, internationally recognized song, “The Girl from Ipanema”.
I have already mightily extolled the virtues of the Putumayo label in previous editions of this column, so I will simply cut to the chase this time. Lately, they have been growing thematic titles, with their “lounge” and “groove” compilation albums from different regions of the world. The best of each of these, I believe, have been the “Brazilian Lounge” and “Brazilian Groove” CDs. Ditto, the “Acoustic Brasil”. Putumayo’s new vein has been a café series. I have heard the French and Cuba café albums and I like them, but I’ve been anticipating the Brazilian Café CD and last week, Putumayo released it in Costa Rica.
This collection of twelve songs is diverse and as with the other Putumayo Brazilian CDs, I think that with few exceptions the female vocalists best portray the sensuous side of Brazilian music. The Teresa Cristina offering, “Para Nao Contrariar Voce”, with her three piece band Grupo Semente, is a good example. Originally a manicurist and cosmetic salesperson, Teresa broke onto the Rio club scene at the age of twenty-six and never looked back. The song selected is one from the legendary samba singer/composer Paulinho Da Viola, a great choice, as the torch is passed to the next generation of Brazilian torch singers. Another great cut on this disc is the live track of “Feliz e Triste” by Ceumar, whose father was a well-known Brazilian singer, too. Ceumar’s pristine voice shines through on this acoustic bossa nova number.
Rosa Passo’s contribution “Pequena Musica Nocturna” is another standout. Passos is also from a musical family and has performed with Yo Yo Ma, Ron Carter and Paquito D’Rivera, to name a few artists. In addition, Marcia Salomon contributes her rendition of “Quando o Carnaval Chegar”, by famed singer composer Chico Baurque, with her own stamp of style on the song. My personal favorite project on the disc is “Arranco de Varsovia” by the Brazilian samba band Forca da Imaginacao, formed by pianist Arranco de Varsovia. The band specializes in updating classic samba songs while putting their own spin on them at the same time. It’s a statement about the all-encompassing modernization and face lifts currently going on throughout Brazil, in lieu of hosting the upcoming World Cup there.
All the Brazilian music on the Putumayo label that has been mentioned in this article can be purchased at the Jaime Peligro book stores in Playa Tamarindo, Nuevo Arenal and Quepos, where they will gladly sample the music for their customers. All comments concerning this article are welcome.