Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Gilberto with Turrentine

For years I have enjoyed The Astrud Gilberto Album ever since finding it for a buck in dusty Quartzsite, AZ. Last fall, I gave Stanley Turrentine’s laudable Salt Sea a new home after coming across it at a neighborhood garage sale in a moving box of ‘70s common stock.  I recently learned that their musical paths converged and they collaborated together on this 1971 album that was later reissued on compact disc in 1988 and 2003.  This 2003 remastered version from Sony Legacy is augmented with three bonus tracks. The lush, sweeping and textured production makes Creed Taylor’s presence immediately felt and heard, while Eumir Deodato’s adept, curvilinear and elastic arrangements gives the recording an ahead of its time feel.  Not only does the album come across as a precursor to the schematics of Stereolab and the High Llamas, but vibrant songs like “Traveling Light” and “Just Like You” sound like they could have even sprung forward onto a Stereolab album from 1996 or a Laetitia Sadier album from 2012.

Pinball Bumper Basslines
Overall, the album is not a strict showcase of Gilberto and Turrentine, but a diversified collection held together by a top-flight combination of American and Brazilian musicians. They present a panoramic sound by overlapping jazz and samba and successfully stretching their possibilities. Furthermore, their first-rate musicianship provides a solid foundation to counterbalance Astrud’s airy vocals. Her delicate voice slides over the pinball bumper basslines of Ron Carter and glides over Eumir Deodato’s Fender Rhodes piano. (BTW-Eumir Deodato is currently Justin Bieber’s grandfather-in-law.) On the opening and closing songs, both composed by Bacharach-David, Astrud’s soothing voice breezes over the warm guitar tones of Gene Bertoncini (Notre Dame class of ‘59). On adventurous songs like “Ponteio,” Turrentine’s tenor saxophone arrives on the forefront and then recedes to accompany Astrud’s vocals delivered in her rhythmic Portuguese.  Turrentine is later given the limelight on the instrumental “Vera Cruz" and the original "Mr. T" releases a sound imbued with poise and dexterity.

Poly High
The bonus track “Polytechnical High” sounds like one of those mechanical songs that the warped Brian Wilson wrote in the ‘70s in exchange for a brown bag of unhealthy substances.  Upon further exploration, the quirky song was first released by Harpers Bizarre in 1970 with writing credits going to Nilsson. Gilberto with Turrentine has the crossover appeal and variety to where far-flung listeners of easy listening, bossa nova/samba, Latin jazz, sunshine/soft pop, Shibuya-kei, soundtracks or jet set pop all could easily find something to suit their individual musical needs, while also being a captivating listen in its entirety.

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