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Album Review

Prates, Jose – “Tam Tam Tam” – [Trunk Records]

Naysayer   3/11/2015   CD, International

Rarely is the story about an album as good and interesting as the album itself, and vice versa. This is that rare case. “Tam???Tam???Tam!” is a unique reissue (put out by the stellar Trunk Records) whose original LP version from the late 50’s is a rare one. For collectors, this is the Holy Grail and the Golden Ticket of 1950’s Brazilian music all wrapped up into one. The music is arranged and composed by the little known Jose Prates. The music was used for this traveling Brazilian dance show called “Brasiliana”. Produced by Polish entrepreneur Miecio Askanasy, and taken all throughout South America, Europe and Israel during the 1950’s, the productions were recorded to create the album full of music and song. The album, originally released in 1958, became a rare collector’s item and the rest of the story of how it turned into this CD, equally fascinating, is told in the CD’s liner notes.
So why is this so important other than being a fetish for obsessive record collectors? The answer is in the listening. This is really the missing link between earlier Brazilian music and what would become late 60’s and early 70’s contemporary Brazilian sound. It’s the foundation for what we hear now. Not being well versed in these sounds, I first listened to it blind, not knowing what this was about. It reminded me of the soundtrack to “Black Orpheus”, to the music of Mardi Gras in Rio, to Yma Sumac, to Ricky Ricardo, to Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 performing “Mas Que Nada”. These are the reference points from growing up in the 1960’s. Looking back to the reviews and notes, yep, track 3 sure enough has the roots of what will become “Mas Que Nada”. And the rest seems to let us know of what is to come. Congas start out the first track setting the tempo, along with woodwinds, flute, piano. Remember, this is music for a stage show so the larger band is present, but sounding more like a nightclub act. Then the vocals kick in. Solo vocalist, Ivan de Paula, comes on strong, sounding almost operatic, almost affected, almost Paul Robeson like. His deep bass holds so much of it together. The female and male chorus participates in call and response as well as whole group, almost chant like singing. The percussion is lush. And driving. You can feel the pound of the piano. And the maracas. And the whistles. Where are the bird calls? Where is Martin Denny? The track list lets us know which is a macumba, a candomble, a batuque, a lament, a samba. It’s a lesson if you don’t know. This is essential listening. Don’t throw your back out when you start dancing around your room.

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