Gilles Peterson, Stuart Baker and Soul Jazz Books have put out some great books the past couple years.
In 2009 they released the great Freedom, Rhythm & Sound, which is around 200 pages of rare, private press and obscure Free Jazz album covers. The years span 1965-‘83, through the Civil Rights movement, much of the music is revolutionary in theme, with the actual pressings and musicians included being independent and forbearers of the current DIY movements.
The book includes an intro, written by Baker, that puts much of the LPs and artwork into context with the moods and attitudes of the time. Much of the extremely rare and obscure records have a brief summary of the record and the musicians who created the piece, others have a section of records from the label (some of the larger ones like Impulse or Flying Dutchman) and have a summary of the label and roster of artists.
It’s an amazing collection for lovers of Free Jazz, record collectors, artists and illustrators. Just fans of American cultural history may find it interesting as well, as it includes info about music scenes from the NYC loft scene, to Chicago, to Kansas City to LA. It’s a nice little glimpse into a window of time, and what was going on artistically that is relatively unknown otherwise.
The 2nd book I just received (& thanks to Hettie for sharing its existence) is Bossa Nova: And The Rise Of Brazilian Music In The 1960s. This book is very much similar to Freedom, Rhythm & Sound, except it takes place (obviously) in Brasil in the ’60s and with Bossa Nova music instead of Free Jazz.
Again, to start the book off, there is an introduction written by Baker contextualizing the music and artwork. Bossa Nova starts with a brief story and description about the song that everyone knows as the ‘pinnacle’ of Bossa Nova, “The Girl From Ipanema”, and quickly turns it into a tale of Brasil’s new military rolling into town with tanks, a regime that would oppress, brutally, and censor for the next 20+ years.
I will spare the history of modern Brasil for readers of the book and those more qualified, but the rise of the new sound is directly tied to it. As the new dictatorship pushed Brasil into the modern age in the 1950’s, Rio was at the center. As Rio modernized, with a new affluent middle-class, new clubs popped up. These Brasilians were huge fans of Frank Sinatra and his Jazz arrangements, and playing his records and arrangements with their own local flavors eventually led to Gilberto (a depressed singer/songwriter whose vocal group had failed) being discovered by Jobim. After a few years of cultivating Gilberto’s new sound, a little-noticed album was released and passed over. It wasn’t until the song “Chega de Saudade” was released as a 78-rpm single a month later that the Bossa Nova explosion would happen in Brasil.
As the music blew up in Brasil, visiting American Jazz artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Byrd, Sarah Vaughan heard it and got hip. This led to Creed Taylor and Stan Getz (my profile pic, yo) writing and producing the LP Jazz Samba in 1962, the first full-length LP to be a full LP with the new sound released in North America.
The intro continues to weave in and out of politics and Bossa Nova musicians, until Marshal Artur da Costa e Silva became president in 1967, and began a 2 year, brutal iron-fist regime that shut down and censored all forms of music releases, tortured anyone who opposed, and killed anyone who protested. Just like that the new thing, Bossa Nova, died.
The book continues on with the same concept as FR&S, and there are tons of covers and artwork. There’s less covers total than the previous book, but still plenty, especially because, for me, almost all of these albums are unfamiliar. Even the names I am familiar with like Jorge Ben, Gilberto, Jobim, and Gilberto Gil are on LPs here that I never even know existed.
For me FR&S was a refresher course in the time period it explores, along with an introduction to some new artists to check and records to try to dig up, but Bossa Nova, though I knew about the Jazz Samba LP, is completely foreign. The history of Brasil and the history of Bossa Nova were so unknown to me that it’s become a great resource for discovering artists and their music.
Great books to have in the collection, looking forward to picking up there edition on the great reggae label Studio One next.
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