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Pianist-composer Cesar Camargo Mariano was one of Brazil's most notable jazz players of the bossa and post-bossa nova eras... Hailing from Sao Paulo, his style was markedly cooler and harmonically richer than many of the more clattersome jazz trios that cluttered the Brazilian nightlife during the height of the bossa craze... Mariano moved from club gigs to studio work, arranging music for many of the biggest and most artistically significant stars of the era, including Maria Bethania, Chico Buarque and, most notably, jazz chantuese, Elis Regina, who he worked with for several years... Here's a quick look at his work.

Recommended Records

Quarteto Saba "Quarteto Saba " (RGE, 1964)

Sambalanco Trio "Sambalanco Trio" (Audio Fidelity, 1964)
Pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano and percussionist Airto Moreira led this jazzy early-'60s trio; along with bassist Humberto Clayber they glided through more of that trademark breezy jazz sound that was the complimentary backdrop to the bossa nova boom. This is the first of the group's three albums, packed with many bossa standards and several of Camargo's originals, as well as "Homangem A Clifford Brown," a tribute to a North American smooth jazz player whose "Blues Walk" was a popular standard in the Braz-jazz scene. As with many of these groups, Sambalanco wasn't really on a par with most U.S. jazz bands, but they have a kitschy appeal, and have a more distinctively Brazilian flair than most. The piano work in particular deftly hints at a greater harmonic depth than actually comes through on the album. Worth checking out, particularly if you are a loungecore fan, or are interested in finding out about Airto's early roots.

Sambalanco Trio "Reencontro Com Sambalanco Trio" (Som Maior, 1965)

Sambalanco Trio & Lennie Dale "Lennie Dale E Sambalanco Trio" (Elenco, 1965)
Here the trio backs American expatriate Lennie Dale, a cabaret crooner who was certainly in the right place at the right time, recording several albums with some of the top talent in the bossa-era nightclub scene. Dale sang in a Mel Torme style, mixing newly-minted bossa hits with a variety of American pop-jazz vocal tunes. It's a very vigorous production, but his vocals are a little too over-the-top for me -- too emotive and robust, and a bit too kitschy. But it's real-deal nightclub bossa, a good portrait of the era, though I don't think I honestly could have sat through one of his shows... He's just too irritating. (But then again, I don't care much for '50s-era crooners like Sinatra, Torme or Tony Bennett, either, and I think that's what Dale was shooting for... So take what I say with a grain of salt.)

Sambalanco Trio "Sambalanco Trio" (Som Maior, 1965)
Also known as Nana, after the title of the first song on the album...

Raul De Souza (Raulzinho) "A Vontade Mesmo" (RCA, 1965)
The Sambalanco Trio form the backbone of this band, laying down jazz riffs for trombonist Raul De Souza to glide on... This was De Souza's debut as a bandleader; he later emigrated to the US and became a leading session player. I'm sure the role of the trombone as a lead instrument has been a constant source of contention among jazz fans, but I have to say that it doesn't do much for me here. I'm no jazz critic, but this album mostly strikes me as a bit unsubtle and overly energetic. Anyway, it's a mostly homegrown set, including one of his own early compositions alongside material by the likes of Tom Jobim, Carlos Lyra and (for exotic effect) Duke Jordan. One of the most notable contributions is from Airto, who kicks in with some nice Cuban-flavored percussion.

Cesar Camargo Mariano "Octeto De Cesar Camargo Mariano" (RGE, 1966)
Straightforward hard-bop jazz, with some Brazilian asides... Most of the tunes are original compositions, with additional songs from the likes of Luiz Bonfa, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Marcos Valle, along with an oldie by Ary Barroso and a kitschy Henry Mancini tune, "Champagne And Quail." The octet -- which included pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano, along with drummer Airto Moreira and bassist Humberto Clayber (of the Sambalanco Trio) -- plays with the most force and conviction on Camargo Mariano's original songs; the other performances sound like a rehash of cabaret shows. However, it should be said that these recordings are miles beyond many of the contemporary Brazilian jazz recordings, in terms of the music's texture and coloration... Breaking away from the standard trio size that defined the bossa-jazz scene, Camargo Mariano prized out much more harmonic depth and subtlety. Worth checking out, if you're delving into the Brazilian jazz scene.

Wilson Simonal "Show Em Simonal" (Odeon, 1967)
A live, double-length concert set, recorded at the Teatro Record, with lounge singer Wilson Simonal fully in his element, backed by pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano's versatile Som Tres trio. There is a lot of clowning around and comedic patter, clattering and shuffling from theme to theme, and while this may not be the most interesting album to listen to from a musical standpoint, it certainly captures the feel of his live shows. I couldn't honestly say I'd recommend this album to anyone, but students of Brazilian pop culture may get a kick out of it.

Som Tres "Som 3" (EMI-Odeon, 1969)

Som Tres "Som Tres Show" (EMI-Odeon, 1968)

Som Tres "Som Tres" (EMI-Odeon, 1970)

Som Tres "Toboga" (EMI-Odeon, 1970)

Cesar Camargo Mariano "Janelas" (Odeon, 1976)

Cesar Camargo Mariano & CIA "Sao Paulo, Brasil" (RCA, 1978)
First-rate jazz-fusion, with a few homegrown Brazilian touches... Keyboardist Cesar Camargo Mariano led this feisty, funky quintet through a remarkably assured set, evoking the best work of Northern Hemipshere heavyweights such as Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock... Indeed, the album's opener, "Metropole," is an instrumental with as tight and funky a groove as anything the North American fusion scene had come up with... Other tracks are much mellower, even at times a bit soporific, but if you like that style of jazz, this is an album worth tracking down. Doesn't quite float my boat, but it's pretty well-produced and good for the genre. Apparently it made quite an impression at the time.

Cesar Camargo Mariano "Cesar Camargo Mariano & CIA" (Odeon, 1980)

Cesar Camargo Mariano & Helio Delmiro "Samambaia" (EMI-Odeon, 1981)
(Produced by Renato Correa)

A nice, lively acoustic album by pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano and guitarist Helio Delmiro, who worked together on a variety of projects over the years, and have a strong intuitive connection. This zippy set mixes the verve and wit of choro music with a more modern soft/fusion jazz feel. Some solos get a little flowery, but overall this is a classy set, pleasantly restrained by the standards of contemporary early '80s MPB. Definitely worth checking out, if you're a smooth jazz fan, or into modernized choro.

Cesar Camargo Mariano "A Todas As Amizades" (Opus Columbia, 1983) (LP)

Cesar Camargo Mariano & Wagner Tiso "Todas As Teclas" (Philips, 1983)
Two renowned Brazilian pianists team up for a mega-tacky electric keyboard cheesefest... Admittedly, there is some technically impressive playing going on here, but it's still pretty damn tacky and proggy. Not my cup of tea.

Cesar Camargo Mariano & Nana Caymmi "Voz E Suor" (EMI/Odeon, 1983)
A fascinating collaboration between vocalist Nana Caymmi and pianist/arranger Cesar Camargo Mariano. It's just the two of them, performing as a piano-vocal duet, each improvising and sliding around the melodies. The most striking thing about this record is the degree to which the usual rhythmic drive of Brazilan music is almost entirely set aside; it may seem a little noodly, and it won't knock your socks off the way many MPB albums do, but it's certainly some of the richest work of either artist's career. An interesting change of pace, and a very dense, rewarding record. Recommended.

Cesar Camargo Mariano & Nelson Ayres "Prisma" (Pointer, 1985) (LP)

Cesar Camargo Mariano & Grupo Prisma "Ponte De Estrelas" (CBS, 1986)

Cesar Camargo Mariano "Mitos" (Columbia, 1988)
Ye gods. The cover art shows the Great Man posed in a large, airy living room, in front of a grand piano and a wide sward of synthesizer keyboards. The music inside is every bit as pretentious and awful as the photo and album title imply... A mix of Milton Nascimento-ish swirliness, Kenny G faux-jazz treacle, and the sort of hyper synth-pop that Steve Winwood made around the same time. It's just awful.

Cesar Camargo Mariano "Cesar Camargo Mariano" (Som Livre, 1990)

Cesar Camargo Mariano "Natural" (Polygram, 1993)

Cesar Camargo Mariano & Leny Andrade "Nos" (Velas, 1994)
A collaboration with jazz vocalist Leny Andrade...

Cesar Camargo Mariano "Solo Brasileiro" (Polygram, 1994)

Cesar Camargo Mariano "Piano, Voz E Sentimento" (Polygram, 1997)

Cesar Camargo Mariano & Pedro Mariano "Piano E Voz" (Trama, 2003)

Cesar Camargo Mariano & Romero Lubambo "Duo" (Sunnyside, 2003)

Cesar Camargo Mariano "Nova Saudade" (Discos Rob, 2003)

Cesar Camargo Mariano & Leny Andrade "Ao Vivo" (Albatroz, 2007)


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