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Date: May 15, 1970
Release: BLUE NOTE #36195
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Considered by some to be trumpeter Donald Byrd‘s last worthwhile jazz recording, Electric Byrd is a high-flying relic from 1970. This album can be understood as Byrd’s formidable response to the musical challenges set down by trumpet-rival Miles Davis with his epic Bitches Brew recordings from a year earlier. Clearly Miles is the ghost presence here, with distinct echoes of his sound permeating the vibe of this exploratory set.

Byrd demonstrates on his three originals that he, too, was a force to be reckoned with. The supremely atmospheric “Estavanico” opens the album, inventively fusing together elements of funk, psychedelica, Brazilian music, and hard-bop to create a truly transcendent groove. Clocking in at around 11 glorious minutes in length, “Estavanico” is an absolute masterpiece and must be heard by all fans of the Bitches Brew.

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Date: February 13, 1962
Release: VERVE 341 521 413-2
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Driving music designed for sun-drenched drives in sleek convertables along winding coasts with the one you love by your side. Jazz Samba is the album responsible for importing the Brazilian Bossa Nova craze to America in 1962. What makes this musical genre so infectious is the delicate tension between its intricate rhythms and its deceptively light-handed melodic approach. It’s the music of tropical drinks and lazy afternoons, and of all the Bossa Nova albums to be recorded in the ’60s, this is the definitive one.

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Date: September 17, 1969 (recording)
Release: Verve #2668
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Heavily accented, hesitantly breathy and child-like, Astrud Gilberto‘s vocals never fail to seduce me. As I play her records (particularly this one), I obsessively pore over the album photos, falling for the sweet faced girl with the adorable voice. An accidental star with no professional training, Astrud was catapulted to fame after singing on the bossa nova crossover hit, “The Girl From Ipanema.” The story is that her then husband, Brazilian singer-songwriter Joao Gilberto, was in the studio with saxophonist Stan Getz, when producer Creed Taylor suggested they record “Ipanema” in English in order to give the song a better chance at cracking the charts. By sheer luck, Astrud was the only Brazilian in the room with a sufficient grasp of the language to give it a shot.

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Date: 1971
Release: Virgin #40641
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“For Francoise Hardy, at the Seine’s edge…”

Bob Dylan, Another Side Of Bob Dylan

Unlike escargots, beautiful French women are not an acquired taste, especially when they can sing. A melancholy and sensual chanteuse, Francoise Hardy made a name for herself crafting lush love songs of great sophistication. Often characterized as aloof, the quietly self-possessed Hardy never allowed herself to be marketed on her abundant sex appeal. Disregarding her looks, she built a following strictly on the strength of her singing and songwriting talents. Although released in 1971, La Question endures as her most spare and seductive album. “Viens” opens the record with a dramatic flair designed to grab the listener’s attention. The title track follows, establishing the album’s elegant dreamlike mood. On such songs as “Chanson D’O,” “Mer,” and “Doigts,” Francoise’s breathy voice lulls you deeper into a deliciously languid state.

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Date: March 16 – May 22, 1970 (recording)
Release: CTI/Sony Legacy #61616
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Antonio Carlos Jobim is to Brazilian music what Duke Ellington is to American jazz—an innovative, prolific, and sublime pianist / songwriter whose art has come to symbolize a certain time and place. Influenced as much by the cool sounds of ’50s West Coast jazz as by the melodies of Claude Debussy and the rhythms of the Brazilian samba, Jobim wrote the songs that, when performed by the likes of Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto, drove the global bossa nova craze of the’60s.

A subtle pianist and guitarist with a soft gravelly voice and a penchant for writing seductive melodies, Jobim always lived in the shadows of those who covered his songs and turned them into hits. While it was Jobim’s “Desafinado” that first put bossa nova on the map in 1962 (when Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd scored a surprise hit covering the song), the man behind the music lived in relative obscurity until he was “rediscovered” shortly before his death in the mid-’90s.

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