Recently, Far Out Recordings had launched a re-issue campaign of LP’s originally released by Roberto Quartin’s Quartin label, bringing back to vinyl circulation some hard-to-find Brazilian jazz gems. That got started with a reissue of Jose Mauro’s Obnoxious and continues with Victor Assis Brasil’s classic 1970 disc Toca Antonio Carlos Jobim on February 24, 2017.
You don’t need to understand Portuguese to know that with the title, Brasil was announcing that this record is a set of Jobim covers. So what else is new? But the pairing of a gifted Brazilian alto saxophonist with the country’s greatest ever composer makes this much more than just another Jobim tribute, because the talents of Brasil shines so bright, and he gives these songs heavy jazz treatments. And yet, even though he stripped out nearly any hint of pop, these performances are nonetheless accessible and engaging; all the right emotions are retained.
Joining Brasil were other leading lights of Brazil’s jazz scene: Dom Salvador (piano), Hélio Delmiro (guitar), Edson Lobo (bass), and Edison Machado (drums).
Brasil had an advanced saxophone diction that wasn’t necessarily representative of Brazil, which could get sultry like John Klemmer but with a load of chops to match. When he had recorded Toca Antonio Carlos Jobim in the summer of 1970, he had only been playing the horn for about nine years but already possessed decades of aptitude. Maybe because of this (or in spite of this), Brasil was said to be more popular outside his native country than in Brazil itself.
“So Tinha De Ser Com Voce” begins the proceedings, as it should since it’s the most festive of the bunch. And Brasil’s joyful, buoyant sax is a major reason why, while Delmiro’s tasteful guitar lead shows the influence of Kenny Burrell.
Once the chorus is played, you won’t mistake the second track for anything but “Wave,” but no one squeezed more melodicism from that song than Brasil, and he and the band go off on a riff and jam. It’s here where Brasil’s saxophone becomes a wellspring for ceaseless harmonic ideas. Poor Salvador, his piano ruminations that follow suffers not from a bad performance but having to come on the heels of Brasil’s tour de force.
“Bonita” is played with a bossa nova rhythm but the rhythm takes a backseat to Brasil and Salvador. “Dindi” is electrified by organ as well as guitar, both of which turn this tune into a soul serenade. But Brasil — on soprano sax — soars with abundant lyricism.
Sadly, Victor Assis Brasil died in 1981 short of his 36th birthday, due to a rare and often fatal circulatory disease. But he left behind several other quality works to explore. Toca Antonio Carlos Jobim is a fine place to start on that journey.