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Milton Drummer Milton Banana was a supreme session player, and a key figure in the growth of Brazilian jazz. Some of his work as an accompanist is simply stunning, although I have to confess most of his solo work, as a bandleader, doesn't do much for me. Still, a lot of people love his records -- you can make up your own mind


Milton Banana Trio "Serie Bis" (EMI, 2001)
For Milton Banana at his best, check the guy out delivering those astonishingly reserved drum riffs on the classic Getz/Gilberto album in 1964. Oh, wait... you've already heard that record? Then I suppose you might want to check out this 2-CD set of his solo work from 1964-72. Personally, I'm not blown away -- it's servicable, light, lounge-y jazz, cooler and less spasmodic than, say, the Tamba Trio, but also a bit perfunctory. These guys seldom linger on a melody, or even aim towards an emotional punch -- it's all about quickly bopping through the tunes and striking a hip stance... which gets kinda old after a few tunes. But even I'll admit that for that early '60s Braz-jazz scene, this is pretty good.

Milton Banana & Oscar Castro-Neves "O Ritmo E O Som Da Bossa Nova" (Audio Fidelity, 1963)
A zippy collaboration between drummer Milton Banana and pianist Oscar Castro-Neves... The repertoire is a mix of bossa nova standards (by Tom Jobim, Carlos Lyra, et. al.) and instrumental compositions by Castro-Neves. Like most of the classic, bossa-era jazz albums, this is taken at a brisk, almost manic, pace -- too hurried for me, although there is some (technically) impressive playing throughout, particularly Banana's drums and the percussion by Roberto Pontes Dias. But overall, not my cup of tea.

Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto/Astrud Gilberto "Getz/Gilberto" (Verve, 1963)
Here's the foundation of a legend... This is THE classic jazz-bossa nova crossover album, against which all others are measured. Almost shockingly intimate, with every tremble of the saxophone reed intact, this 1963 collaboration with Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto contains complete take of the #1 hit, "The Girl from Ipanema," which is the version most folks in the States are familiar with, and which helped make Astrud Gilberto a household name in America. Her hubby Joao's guitar work and whispery vocals are the ultimate in melodic cool. Tom Jobim plays piano, in one of his sweetest performances, and the percussion by Milton Banana is a study in economy. If you want to here Banana at his best, this is it. A really great album.

Os Cobras "O LP" (RCA, 1964)
An all-star Brazilian jazz band, featuring hot-shot players such as Milton Banana, Tenorio, Jr., Raul De Souza, Paulo Moura and J.T. Meireles. Like many of the Brazilian jazz albums that actually are jazz albums, this is more jazz than "Brazilian"... With the exception of a cover of Clifford Brown's "Blues Walk" (which was a favorite standard in Brazil), these songs are all homegrown compositions... yet they sound like straight-up hard jazz from the 'Fifties, early 'Sixties era. This album is notable both for the calibre of talent in the band, but also for the weight of their playing -- this still isn't my cup of tea, but I like it better than the tinkly, hyperactive cabaret style which predominated in the bossa nova years.

Milton Banana "Ve" (EMI Odeon, 1965)

Milton Banana "Milton Banana Trio" (EMI Odeon, 1965)

Milton Banana "Balancando Com Milton Banana Trio" (EMI Odeon, 1966)

Milton Banana "O Som Do Milton Banana Trio" (EMI Odeon, 1967)

Milton Banana "O Trio" (EMI Odeon, 1968)

Milton Banana "Milton Banana Trio" (EMI Odeon, 1968)

Milton Banana "Milton Banana Trio" (EMI Odeon, 1969)

Milton Banana "Milton Banana" (EMI Odeon, 1971)

Milton Banana "Milton Banana" (EMI Odeon, 1972)

Milton Banana "Milton Banana" (EMI Odeon, 1974)

Milton Banana "Milton Banana" (EMI Odeon, 1975)

Milton Banana "Balancando 2" (EMI Odeon, 1976)

Milton Banana Trio "Samba E Isso, v.1" (RCA, 1977)

Milton Banana Trio "Tipo Exportacao (Samba E Isso v.2)" (RCA, 1978)
Okay, so if I'm so grumpy about Banana's solo work, then why, exactly, do I think this album is kinda cute? It's super-kitschy and lightweight, with tinkly piano, brisk percussion and whispered female vox, midway between the playful fluff of Bernadette Peters and the complete schmaltz of Quarteto Em Cy. I can't explain it: by all rights a loungecore debunker like myself should loathe this, but it's actually kind of amusing and fun. It's obviously not supposed to be taken too seriously, so you have to kind of just coast along with whatever he's doing. They even get a little softcore and moany on "Tigressa," which should make you lounge-y types all hot and bothered...

Milton Banana Trio "Ao Meu Amigo Chico (Samba E Isso v.3)" (RCA, 1979)
A Chico Buarque tribute album...

Milton Banana Trio "Ao Meu Amigo Tom (Samba E Isso v.4)" (RCA, 1980)
Yeesh. A super-syrupy tribute to composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, who drummer Banana first met in the mid-1950s, as bossa nova was beginning to come to fruition... A Quarteto Em Cy-ish vocal chorus chimes in on a couple of tunes (it could actually be them, but the liner notes don't say for sure...), but mostly this is an all-instrumental album. Too goopy for me.

Milton Banana Trio "Ao Meu Amigo Vinicius (Samba E Isso v.5)" (RCA, 1981)

Milton Banana "Sambas De Bossa" (RCA, 1993)
Bland, dispirited, perfunctory soft jazz. Banana was an outstanding accompanist, but his work as a bandleader often left a lot to be desired... Not sure when these tracks were recorded; the barebones liner notes are completely uninformative... blank pages inside the booklet, in fact.

Milton Banana "No Balanco" (RCA, 1994)

Milton Banana "Linhe De Passe" (RCA, 1984)


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