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The Tamba Trio - The Miraculous Tamba Trio

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Artist: The Tamba Trio

Album: The Miraculous Tamba Trio

Label: El

Review date: Aug. 20, 2008

In the early ’60s, classically trained pianist Luiz Eca and his band, the Tamba Trio, drew heavily upon bossa nova and samba, mixing them with piano perforations (sometimes reminiscent of Bill Evans), flute and wafting vocal harmonies, to create a Brazilian music as radical then as it is stereotypical now. No doubt, we have the Trio to thank for much of the light, cocktail "jazz" that gave rise to the infamous Getz/Gilberto LP and the craze for bossa nova that subsequently happened stateside. Yet, the Tamba Trio, who played in one form or another for some 20 years, doesn't necessarily get mentioned in the same breath as that aforementioned giant LP. Perhaps they should.

This 26-track collection, which spans four albums released between ’62 and '66, begins with the group's latest, and most advanced music, before venturing backwards to the non-threatening breeze of their debut, and finally landing on a collection of tracks from 1963's Avanco. In fact, it's those '63 sessions that finds them at their most varied, hammering out percussive jazz, string-fueled sambas (included "Garota de Ipanama") and dabbling in tempo shifts full of subtle virtuosity. For example, disc closer "Tristeza de Nos Dois" starts out as a frantic bossa nova, Eca pounding out chords over Helcio Milito's percussion, before dropping into a soft samba. Over the track's three minutes, however, the band, and especially Eca, shift moods several times, forcing the listener to dig past the tune's surface in order to find its brilliance.

Fortunately, the collection includes the eight-minute version of "Consolacion," recorded in Mexico in '66. In this single track, one gets a sense of how the Trio's hushed innovations expanded out beyond the pop they could've otherwise been confined to. The emphasis on rhythm with occasional breaks for harp-like, sweeping piano conjures Sun Ra's work on the Visits Planet Earth version of "Eve." There are simply too many sub-sections here to count.

The problem with this compilation is obvious, though. After, "Consolacion," it's back to the band's earlier work, which, thanks in no small part to Otavio Bailly's flute, becomes wallpaper, something that happens slowly but surely, as the Trio's debut becomes the focal point. This collection is no doubt a welcome reminder of how innovative Brazilian music has been over the last 50 years, but some things have simply weathered better than others. Examples of both can be found in spades here.

By Bruce Miller

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