Monday, October 16, 2023

Jazz Samba/Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd - Some Perspectives

 © Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

One of the first impressions I had of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd’s Verve 1962 Jazz Samba LP can be summed up in the following:

“The "cooled down" Brazilian samba rhythms with lyrics sung in Portuguese on an album that "broke the bossa nova wave in the 1960s USA" played by two drummers with the last names of DEPPENSCHMIDT and REICHENBACH!

Jazz at its ecumenical best!”

As a working drummer at the time of its issue, I rushed out to purchase it because every musician I was working with wanted to play this music and I’m indebted to Buddy [Deppenschmidt] and Bill [Reichenbach] for “teaching” me how to play the accents associated with bossa nova rhythms.

Sixty years later, I thought it might be fun to revisit the Jazz literature on the album and see what others - then and now - had to say about its origins, structure and significance.

JAZZ SAMBA: The original liner notes by Dom Cerulli

“The Samba is a Brazilian dance derived from the Maxixe, another dance that comes from that South American country. The Samba, which has its roots in Africa, is characterized by a dip and swing as it is performed. The movements of the dance are supple and graceful, and the rhythmic pulse of the music is infectious. The Samba is believed to be a relative of the Tango, but is acknowledged to be a much more energetic member of the family.

A Jazz Samba can be characterized as a version of the music utilizing Samba rhythm but featuring jazz improvisation on the melody and the harmonic structure of the composition.

The union of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd on this recording is particularly fortunate. Each musician is a sensitive soloist with great lyrical power. Neither attempted to "play Latin," but let the ingratiating Samba rhythm carry them along in their improvisations on the melodic content of the


Byrd became absorbed with the rhythms and the songs of Brazil during a South American tour he made with bassist Keter Betts and drummer Buddy Deppenschmidt in 1961. He returned from the trip with scores of records, and with the experience of having played with Brazilian musicians in a variety of contexts.

Getz lately has sought to bring his fluid tenor sax into different jazz settings on records. Most notable of these efforts to date has been his collaboration with composer/arranger Eddie Sauter in focus (Verve V/V6-8412), a remarkable album in which Stan wove exquisite melodies and

counter-melodies through a brilliant fabric of music furnished by Sauter for a large string ensemble.

"When we were in Brazil," Byrd noted, "I played on occasion with some of the local musicians. We did these songs, and I found it easy to improvise jazz to them. The people seemed to like it. Musicians there do not do so much improvising.

"As we started to work out plans for this album, we looked for some kind of a voice to be a little like the use of the human voice in these songs, and still have a jazz feeling. It had to be someone who could play jazz, but with sensitivity. Stan was perfect."

Getz recalled that he had tried to capture the flavor of this kind of music in the past with limited success. "I liked the music," he said. "I had played with Miguelito Valdes and with Machito, and I enjoyed it very much. I listened to Charlie's [Joao] Gilberto record, and it felt good.

I thought I'd like to play with a relaxed rhythm like that. It was the first time I ever played with Charlie, and the things he did with the guitar and the music really impressed me. He has such a feeling for melody. The chord changes on the tunes were very adaptable for improvising.

And they did some different things with rhythm. The two basses filled out the line. I enjoyed hearing the music, but I dug playing it with Charlie and his guys even more." Byrd sketched out the routines for the songs. Where two basses were used he wrote in more detail. Stan had heard the records but, according to Charlie, "they hadn't influenced him too much. He improvised naturally, which was exactly what you have to do with this kind of music."

The entire album was recorded in one day in the acoustically-warm hall of a Washington, D. C. church.


Since the late 1940s, when Stan Getz drew international attention to his tenor sax with his lyrical solo on Woody Herman's Early Autumn, he has built an impressive career in jazz out of his gift for melodic improvisation. His sound is soft and warm, but takes on a firm edge of peppy tempos. The wide variety of jazz experience he has crammed into his 35 years includes work with the bands of Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Jack Teagarden, and Bob Chester, among others. He has been leader of his own group since 1951, and has played in most of the leading cities of the world. He recently returned to this country after nearly three years of residence in Denmark. He has won scores of awards from jazz publications the world over, including, in this country, Metronome's annual poll for 11 straight years, Down Beat's annual poll for 10 years, Playboy's annual poll for four consecutive years, and top awards in Down Beat's Critics' Poll, Melody Maker's Readers' Poll in Great Britain, Jazz-Echo Readers' Poll in Germany, and many others.


One of the few guitarists in jazz to use the unamplified guitar as well as the more conventional amplified instrument, Byrd hails from a family of guitarists. He was born, 36 years ago, in Suffolk, Va., and grew up in a community with a large Negro population. His early exposure to music was to blues guitarists and singers, and to Negro gospel music. Byrd's father and three brothers played guitar, and Charlie followed in the tradition by starting on mandolin and guitar at the age of 10. While in the U. S. Army during World War II, he played guitar in a band, jammed with Django Reinhardt, and was exposed to modern jazz. In the mid-1940s, he worked with Freddie Slack, Joe Marsala, Barbara Carroll, and Sol Yaged, among others. He settled in Washington to study with Sophocles Papas, widely-known guitar teacher. In 1954, an audition with Andres Segovia led to an invitation for Charlie to study with Segovia in Italy that Summer. He still lives in Washington and works there and in other top jazz locations with his trio.


Keter (William Thomas) Betts began as a drummer but switched to bass after graduating from high school in 1946. He worked with Earl Bostic, Dinah Washington, and Nat and Cannonball Adderley's group before settling in Washington and locating with Charlie Byrd's group. He is a native

of Port Chester, N. Y., and is 33 years old.

Gene Byrd is Charlie's 24-year-old brother, making his recording debut on this album. He was a senior at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore when the sides were recorded.

Two drummers were used because, as Byrd noted, "This is what the Brazilians do. Both drummers play simple patterns, and together they swing."

Buddy (William H.) Deppenschmidt is 25 years old and played with Byrd for a year and a half. Although he left the group recently, he returned to make the album. He made the South American tour with Charlie, and participated on Byrd's three recent albums. He is currently with Billy Butterfield. Bill Reichenbach recently joined Byrd on drums. His experience includes work with Tommy Dorsey's band, and as rhythm man with Georgia Gibbs, among others.



DESAFINADO—This is the recording Stan heard by Joao Gilberto, the Brazilian singer. Charlie notes that the lyric of the song recounts that the singer may sing off key, but his heart is in his song. The piece is built around that theme. Rhythm opens the track, then Stan states the lovely theme. Charlie's solo is strongly pulsing, and Stan returns blowing hard through to the coda, which is played lyrically. 

SAMBA DEES DAYS—Byrd wrote and titled this one. "It was a kind of challenge," he said. "I heard the style of music and said to myself that I could write a samba." Stan opens the piece with a series of driving choruses. Charlie follows with his solo, then Stan takes it back and out. 0 PATO—This title translates, "the duck." Charlie recalled, "It was one of the ones I heard on the tour that struck me as a cute little piece. We heard it quite a bit. It's one that people hear, then say, 'that's from Brazil.'" There's a bluesy opening with Stan and Charlie voiced over the rhythm. Charlie takes a bright two bar break into his solo. Stan returns at the bridge for a solo that includes a good-natured reference to Idaho, one of the favorite states of jazzmen. Charlie returns for a few bars, and the rhythm takes it out.

SAMBA TRISTE—Charlie asked Brazilian guitarist Baden Powel if there were any sambas written in a minor key. Powel said there was just one that he knew. Samba Triste. Charlie opens with lyrical guitar. Stan's solo is mournful, and Charlie's has a wistful lyric quality. Stan returns with an emotional opening to his solo that sums up the tune's title and mood.


SAMBA DE UMA NOTA SO—Literally, the Samba on only one note. "This," said Charlie, "is the most recorded of all. It's very well known in Brazil." Sixteen bars of rhythm open the track. (It should be noted somewhere along the line that Sambas are usually more complicated structurally than, say, American pop songs of 32 bars. Most Sambas have three parts, and the harmonic line may run to 64 bars.) Stan takes several hard choruses. Charlie follows with his solo in a lighter vein, then the bass solo leads to an interesting interplay among the melody instruments at the end. 

E LUXO SO —"Frankly," Charlie smiled, "I don't know what the title means. But it's a good fast samba, and we needed one." Rhythm opens the track, and Stan states the theme. Charlie solos, playing melody while Stan blows fills. Stan's solo sizzles, with the rhythm section cooking behind him.

BAIA—Perhaps best known to American audiences, this has become a Latin-American standard. It was originally in a Walt Disney film. "The main part of the tune is a real Bahian song everybody in Brazil knows," Charlie noted. Eight bars of rhythm open the track, then Stan states the pretty theme. Charlie takes over at the bridge, with Gene's arco bass behind him and with Stan blowing fills that become a call-and-response between the pair. Charlie takes a delicate and moving solo before Stan comes back with pushing, driving tenor that toys with both melody and rhythm. - Dom Cerulli”

Verve issued a restored, high resolution, 20-bit digital transfer on CD in 1997 [5165495] with a bonus track and these new liner notes by John Litweiler.

Reissuing Jazz Samba

“Was there ever a phenomenon among jazz albums to compare with Jazz Samba by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd? Recorded on February 13, 1962, it was released in April and rose to the top of the best-selling album charts, while a single from the album, "Desafinado", featuring Getz's solo, also became a hit. The bossa nova fad was on: By the end of the year dozens of other jazz artists, including Getz's great tenor sax rivals Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins, had released their own bossa nova albums. Getz and Byrd then recorded further highly successful bossa nova albums — the tenor saxophonist's Getz/Gilberto, released in '64, was another huge hit — before the fashion was spent.

The extent of the success of bossa nova may have been a surprise, but there were good reasons for the music's popularity. The year 1962 was a time of transition in popular music. The great American songwriters, Kern, Berlin, Porter, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart, and Carmichael, were vanishing; the early popularity of rock & roll was waning; in jazz, after the boom years of the Fifties, record sales were falling off and nightclubs were closing. In the midst of this general decline, bossa nova was a bright new music that featured contagious rhythms and attractive songs — in fact, several by Antonio Carlos Jobim and other bossa nova songwriters became standards, almost the only songs of the period to enter the jazz repertory. Remember, too, this was before the heyday of the Beatles and Motown, which began rock's total domination of the record industry; can you imagine any music as rhythmically and texturally subtle as Jazz Samba on today's hit record charts?

Would North American audiences have even known of bossa nova if not for Byrd? The tentative joinings of samba and jazz by guitarist Laurindo Almeida and alto saxophonist Bud Shank had been a novelty in this country in 1953. The Oscar-winning Brazilian film Black Orpheus (1958) introduced a small pan-American and European audience to the music of Jobim and Luiz Bonfa, but then a Capitol album by Joao Gilberto vanished without a trace in the US in the early Sixties.

Enter Byrd, a guitarist since his boyhood. During World War II he met and played with the great Django Reinhardt in France. Back in the US after the war he embarked upon a conventional career playing electric guitar in jazz groups but grew increasingly discontent with it. In 1949 he began to devote his energies to playing classical guitar, even taking a master class from Andres Segovia in 1954. Based in Washington, DC then, he won local acclaim for his jazz interpretations of standard songs, played on Spanish guitar, on which he also played music from the classical repertory. He worked with Woody Herman in 1958-59, before the turning point of his career: a twelve-week tour of South America with bassist Keter Betts and drummer Buddy Deppenschmidt in 1961.

Bossa nova was thriving in Brazil by the time the Byrd trio arrived there. The style was virtually the invention of Gilberto and Jobim, an adaptation of samba rhythms fused with the harmonic structures and "cool" surface of West Coast jazz. "I liked the texture and volume of it," says Byrd,

"because more than any other Latin American music, it allowed a good place for the guitar to work. There was a noticeable difference from the Cuban approach, for example, from the Xavier Cugat and those kinds of things — a more delicate and light way of playing. Also appealing were the ingenious melodies of Jobim and Bonfa and those people. They emulated American popular songs to some extent, but they had a lot of innovation in their own tradition, and they were very inventive people themselves. They were just fantastic, and I think they would have been great songwriters in any style."

Back in the US, Byrd and guitarist Herb Ellis began playing bossa nova duets but could not interest record companies in doing an album of them. Meanwhile, Getz, back in the US after a three-year stay in Europe, came to Washington to play. Byrd says, "I had been introduced to him about ten years before and had seen him occasionally, but I wouldn't say we were close friends. I sought him out."

Byrd played bossa nova recordings that he'd brought back from Brazil for Getz, who became enthusiastic about doing a bossa nova album. They attempted without success to record with a New York rhythm section — the offbeat bossa nova rhythms were not easy to master — but a second try, with Betts and Deppenschmidt (and percussionist Bill Reichenbach added), at Pierce Hall in All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, worked marvelously. "It was a lot of fun to do," says Byrd. "I still like to do a record date that way. You've got your material, you go in, you do a couple of takes on each one, and you've got a record." Selecting which songs to record was not easy: "I had a lot of choices. I still think the Jobim songs from that period had something that even he never reached again, and I liked all his work right up to the end."

For Getz, Jazz Samba was a thorough triumph. His unique sound and fertile melodies certainly make him the ideal bossa nova interpreter. By the Sixties he possessed a lovely tenor saxophone sound, a rounded sound, with no harsh edges or opaque weight at its center. Such a sound was an ideal of the cool sensibility that emerged in jazz alongside bebop. Yet Getz's cool sound was in its way quite expressive, providing a cry in high notes atop phrases, or gathering darker hues in lower tones, with an extraordinary terminal vibrato (hear Samba Triste). In fact, Getz's superb sense of dynamics lends variation to his sound, as in the legato-staccato contrasts on Samba Dees Days.

Getz's sound is the most obvious aspect of a remarkable mastery of his instrument. With, for example, John Coltrane, another great tenor saxophonist of Getz's generation, the virtuosity is emphatic, the listeners always aware of the immensity of what he's playing. No matter how complex Getz's phrasing becomes, he emphasizes melodic grace above all; brilliant technique is only what makes lovely melody possible.

Getz is the foreground figure for most of Jazz Samba. Byrd and his rhythmic support provide a delightful setting of light textures and skipping rhythms; Byrd's own sparkling, graceful solos are shaped in long phrases and thoughtfully constructed choruses. In contrast, Getz is a romantic, a purely lyrical artist.

One result is the ongoing freshness in Getz's playing, an absence of cliché. His sense of order is complex and variable; he develops a capacity to sustain moods, and he is especially attracted to the vein of melancholy that runs through most of these pieces.

Yet he typically requires chord changes to provide overall form, for his mind teems with melodic invention — and juxtapositions, new trains of thought, were frequent. Thus the airy quality in his responses to Byrd's theme statements on Samba de Uma Nota So and E Luxo So. Getz's style could encompass melodic variation (Desafinado) as well as creation, and the most singular aspect of his playing on Jazz Samba is his rhythmic freedom. This yields a great variety of irregular phrase lengths and, with offbeat, between-beat accents that lend a wonderfully free-floating quality to "E Luxo So" and Bahia, seems to expand and contract time itself. Of course, Byrd and his support's bossa nova rhythms, based upon those offbeat accents, help to stimulate this freedom in Getz's playing. His immersion in this rhythmic world is complete — unlike Charlie Parker's, for instance, these are not jazz solos with Latin backgrounds but a genuine fusion of jazz and samba.

There would be further triumphs for Getz and Byrd in the decades to come, triumphs far removed from this exotic music. The fashion for bossa nova, which lasted into the mid-Sixties, was the beginning of a productive undercurrent in jazz. Attempts to fuse jazz with aspects of classical Indian music and various styles of African music soon followed; by the mid-Seventies pairings of jazz and world music were frequent. But few approached the musical success of Stan Getz's bossa nova adventures and     none was anywhere near as popular. Both as a hit record album and a catalyst for a popular musical movement, Jazz Samba stands alone in the past half century of jazz recordings.” - John Litweiler December 1996

Thanks to Charlie Byrd, the Chicago Jazz Archive, and Stan Getz: A Life in Jazz by Donald L. Maggin (William Morrow, New York, 1996)

And Richard Palmer, writing in the book on Stan Getz in the wonderful Jazz Masters Series [Apollo, 1988] begins his fourth chapter with:

Four: Dis Here Finado

Unpretentiousness, spontaneity, and the poetry of honest emotion belong back in jazz. And don't let that gentleness fool you. These guys swing harder than most, and they do it without pushing. [Sleeve note Verve VLP 9065].

“For more than twenty years the name of Stan Getz and the term 'bossa nova' have been virtually synonymous (much to Stan's pique at times, as we'll see later). So it is worth pointing out at the start that Getz did not initiate its use in jazz. Bud Shank was the first jazzman of any stature to explore samba rhythms; and while Stan was still in Denmark, Dizzy Gillespie, a long-term aficionado of Latin-American music, was beginning to incorporate the bossa nova style into his work, no doubt prompted by his pianist Schifrin's (an Argentinian) indigenous interest. Furthermore, Stan's presence on the seminal Jazz Samba was not at his own instigation. The date was the brainchild of Charlie Byrd and his rhythm section, bassist Keter Betts and drummer Bill Reichenbach. They had toured South America early in 1961, and were delightedly exposed to the supple swing of the native rhythms. As Byrd remembers it: “I played on occasion with some of the local musicians. We did these songs* [*i.e. the tunes that are performed on the Jazz Samba album] and I found it easy to improvise jazz to them. The people seemed to like it: musicians over there do not do much improvising.' And as the idea of an album devoted to such material grew in their minds, Byrd recalls that 'we looked for some kind of voice to be a little like the use of the human voice in these songs, and still have a jazz feeling. It had to be someone who could play jazz, but with sensitivity. Stan was perfect.”

Indeed he was: he responded to the songs with the same immediate zest as had the Byrd trio, and on 13 February 1962 they recorded the album in the Pierce Hall, All Souls Unitarian Church, Washington D.C. It could be said that 'the rest is history', except that I think the massive success of the opening track has rather obscured the outstanding calibre of the album as a whole, and moreover its excellence as jazz. Desafinado (abridged for the single release, which became a Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic) provides a splendid beginning, its subtly virile rhythms (Byrd used two bassists and two drummers playing together) beautifully offset by the searching solos by both leaders and their biting but lyrical interplay.

Other tracks are however even better: I would choose the delicious 0 Pato, a performance that could hardly be surpassed for conciseness of ideas and crispness of swing, and Baia, a haunting tune once featured in a Disney film. Baia, in a minor key and benefitting more obviously than any other track from the remarkable acoustic of the Washington church, is graced by two of Stan's most mesmerising readings, separated by the finest Byrd outing I know. The combination of yearning intensity and an almost elegiac resonance gives me the shivers every time I listen to it, over two decades after I first bought it (and I'm on my third copy!). Certainly, Jazz Samba was, and is, a major artistic triumph as well as a commercial one.”