Facebook Will Chief Keef accept an apology from one of pop music's biggest stars?…
- Posted on Nov 13th 2007 12:00PM by Steve Hochman
Not surprisingly, Davis and the Beatles are prominent among those mentioned when Veloso, in the middle of a rare North American tour that continues from Nov. 14 in Pasadena, Calif., to Nov. 24 in Miami, was asked to name the artists and albums that would be key listening for anyone seeking to understand his own musical aesthetic. The Fab Four, of course, were a main influence in the development of the adventurous, colorful tropicalismo movement that Veloso helped pioneer in '60s Brazil and is overtly represented in several cover songs he included on his 'Qualquer Coisa' album from 1975, which even has cover art in homage to 'Let It Be.' The legendary jazz trumpeter, in contrast, stands more as a philosophical icon for an artist who is not so much a restless spirit but a voracious one, devouring every musical style he encounters and digesting it into his own being.
In that context, it seems unfair to ask him to narrow down all of that to just five choices of music essential to an understanding of his vast catalog of innovations. But that's how it works with Source-Outing, this semi-regular-to-be feature of Around the World. As the second victim, er, subject of this exploration, Veloso gamely dove into his extensive storehouse of musical knowledge and passion to offer a concise, pointed collection. And we let him cheat a bit with a supplemental addendum. It's music! There's always room for more!
- João Gilberto, 'Chega de Saudade': It's a pretty established notion that the music of one's youth is the music that makes the strongest and most lasting impression, so it's not a shock that Veloso's first choice was released in 1959, when he was in his teens. The album that marks the birth of the bossa nova movement, defined forever by Gilberto's intimate yet matter-of-fact vocals and rhythmically seductive, quasiclassical acoustic guitar on groundbreaking songs by such rising masters as Antonio Carlos Jobim. This Gilberto tied together with native percussion to give a true national identity in an era of pop explosions and provide a truly Brazilian sound that would become a global presence almost overnight. It was a quiet revolution but a revolution indeed. Says Veloso, "It was an enlightenment when I was 17." (The original album is hard to find, but all the tracks, as well as those that made up Gilberto's next two LPs, can all be found on the anthology 'The Legendary João Gilberto.'
- Jorge Ben, 'Ben': After establishing his own radical revolution with the iconoclastic tropicalismo movement in 1968, Veloso and fellow innovator and frequent collaborator Gilberto Gil were branded by the military dictatorship as corrupting influences and jailed for several months before being exiled to London. Needless to say, when they are able to return home in 1972, they were perhaps a bit emotionally vulnerable, which could explain Veloso's deep affection for this album by another key member of the tropicalismo fraternity. But even all these years later he doesn't mince words about this "incredible" album from a time in which Ben was exploring and expanding his range of musical and emotional colors. This is, says Veloso definitively, "the most beautiful and vital songs ever written and recorded."
- John Lennon, 'Plastic Ono Band': One could argue that the kinship between the tropicalistas and Paul McCartney (himself seemingly influenced by the bossa nova aesthetic) was the strongest in the Brazilians' Beatles affection. But it is Lennon's stark blast ("I don't believe in Beatles," he sings in the song 'God') that Veloso singles out among the whole catalog of Fab Four-related material as his third choice in this exercise. Fitting the tone of the Lennon's first solo work, Veloso needs just three words to describe its appeal to him: "concise, direct, naked." Of course, he can't leave it at that -- who could? -- and would wish to pair that with a "dream" Beatles record from what is generally considered the richest period of that band's evolution featuring "tracks from 'Rubber Soul,' 'Revolver,' 'Sgt. Pepper's,' the White Album and just 'Come Together' from 'Abbey Road.' "
- Dorival Caymmi, 'Caymmi e Seu Violão': In the musical wealth of the Bahia region, from where Veloso and many of his cohorts hail, Caymmi stands as a towering figure, sometimes compared to Woody Guthrie in terms of his revivals, renewals and popularizations of folk traditions. Does that make Veloso Brazil's Bob Dylan? Well, not exactly, but the level of influence is comparable, and coming at the same time as Gilberto's debut, this 1959 album by the already elder statesman (well, relatively speaking, Caymmi being 45 at the time) is understandably a touchstone for Veloso. "The genius of Dorival Caymmi and his exquisite mix of impressionistic harmonies and primitive feeling, singing his songs about the sea, alone with his guitar: a whole world of music," Veloso says. "The recordings were made in the '50s in Rio. Now he is ninetysomething!"
- Ray Charles, 'Dedicated to You.' Most people making reference to Ray Charles' impact would cite the rough-edged '50s R&B style of 'What'd I Say' and 'Lonely Avenue' or maybe the startling turn of 1962's 'Modern Sounds of Country and Western Music.' But for Veloso, the Genius' genius is best served by a relatively obscure 1961 collection of big-band arrangements of a dozen songs with varying standards of quality, each titled with a woman's name (from 'Hard Hearted Hannah' and 'Sweet Georgia Brown' to 'Nancy With the Laughing Face' and 'Stella by Starlight' along the way. For our guide, the fairly slick arrangements magnify rather than obscure Charles' essence. "This is Ray Charles' glossy album, where his harsh sound and hurt appear purer than in the earlier, simpler records." (The CD reissue of 'Dedicated to You' pairs it on one disc with Charles' contemporaneous album of duets with Betty Carter.
As we noted, Veloso couldn't stop at five, so we'll give him a chance to share a few more essentials, though you may need an open schedule and an open wallet to totally fulfill his recommendations, as they include every note every recorded by Portuguese fado singer Amália Rodrigues, jazz innovator Thelonious Monk and the emotion-laden flamenco icon Camarón de la Isla, as well as all of Miles Davis' groundbreaking "cool" work with arranger Gil Evans. On top of that, there's the haunting romance of 'Chet Baker Sings' ("I know Americans never really got that one"), the Brazilian-New York art hybrids of guitarist Arto Lindsay's group Ambitious Lovers' 1988 album 'Greed' and Brazilian songstress Aracy de Almeida's seminal-in-Brazil mid-20th-century interpretations of the songs of composer Noel Rosa, who only became a popular figure after his 1937 death at age 27.
OK, what are you waiting for? There's a lot of listening to do!