Ike Quebec - Soul Samba (1962)Ike Quebec’s Soul Samba is a remarkable record.  Jazz and bossa nova meet in the air of these sessions, and the result is an album that I don’t hesitate to recommend to friends and music lovers who might not consider themselves fans.  It’s stuff to lose yourself to on summer nights, and a place to discover one great jazzman’s take on the sounds of Brazil.

Some context: Ike Quebec recorded this in the fall of 1962, just months before his death to lung cancer at the age of forty-five.  After running stints with a number of established jazz bands in the 1940s Quebec spent most of the next decade lost in a haze of heroine addiction.  He was silent until the summer of 1959, when he was hired on as assistant music director at Blue Note.  It was in the Englewood Cliffs studio that Quebec recorded all of his Blue Note long players, including Blue and Sentimental in ‘61 and the bossa nova’d Soul Samba in ‘62. 

One thing worth noting is just how much the sound of those two outings is affected by Quebec’s decision to substitute guitar for piano: Grant Green brings his bluesy magic to Blue and Sentimental, while Kenny Burrell’s more restrained style carries much of the day on Soul Samba.  Burrell leaves his imprint all over these sessions, and, from the start of the opening track, “Loie,” we can hear how well-suited he is for music of this kind.

This is music with swing: soulful jazz carried by the bossa nova shuffle.  And, yes, it moves: “That’s why this album came out sounding like dancing late at night,” Quebec says in the liner notes.  “We were moanin’ more than most of the others who play bossa nova.  We made it soft — and soulful.”

But the album represents more than the happy convergence of bossa nova and jazz.  Quebec even goes out of his way to bring classical music into the conversation.  On “Goin’ Home” he borrows the theme from the gorgeous Largo of Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony.  And here you can listen to his bossa nova treatment of Liszt’s Liebestraum (“love dream”).  On albums such as this, music becomes a place where traditions meet.

While this is in no way an experimental jazz record, Soul Samba embraces the openness, the spirit of exploration common to so much jazz of that era.  Here, jazz becomes a meeting place for the music of Liszt, Dvorak, and Brazil. 

Sometimes, like Dvorak’s symphony of the same name, great music will dream of, and search for, a new world.

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Blue Note Records: Rudy Van Gelder Edition 0946 3 92783 2 9

Personel:

Ike Quebec, tenor sax
Kenny Burrell, guitar
Wendell Marshall, bass
Willie Bobo, drums
Garvin Masseaux, chekere

Recorded on October 5, 1962 at the Van Gelder Sudio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

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