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Fats Elpidio portrait Brazilian pianist Fats Elpidio was a prolific performer and session musician in the 1950s, often working with samba/gafieria bandleader Zaccarias, in a variety of lineups. I like Elpidio's style - it's often a little offbeat, adding subtle improvisations and fillips into his support work, and adding quirky, microscopic twists to his solos. Below are reviews of some of his records -- I'm pretty sure this is just the tip of the iceberg, though, and look forward to discovering more of his work.


Fats Elpidio "O Pianista Da Boite Vogue Do Rio" (Radio, 1955)

Quarteto Excelsior "Jantar Dancante" (RCA, 1955)
A mellow set from a tight quartet featuring bandleader Zaccarias, pianist Fats Elpidio, and a compact bass-drums rhythm duo. This album isn't as sneaky or as inventive as some of their later stuff, but the samba songs that comprise Side One are nice... Side Two has three long medleys of North American standards ("Embraceable You," etc.) Overall, pleasant to hear, but not an earthshaking album. The highest nostalgia quotient comes with the Brazilian material, and those few songs are pretty sweet.

Fats Elpidio & Zaccarias "Vamos Dancar" (RCA Victor, 1956)

Fats Elpidio "Recordando Nono" (RCA Victor, 1956)

Quarteto Excelsior "Coquetel Dancante, v.1" (RCA, 1957)
An enchanting nostalgic oldie, featuring bandleader Zaccarias, best known for his work with a large gafieira orchestra, here performs in a small group setting, playing clarinet himself, with nimble backing by pianist Fats Elpidio. Fats comes up with some wildly inventive riffs, details that might not be apparent at first, but that become more impressive with repeat auditions. The sparse, halting arrangements and reserved vocal style give this a sort of a '50s glee-club sound, but a deep reservoir of jazzy savvy runs underneath it all, giving these stripped-down samba-cancao tunes a surprising little zing. This record is a lot of fun, once you give it a chance.

Fats Elpidio "Musica E Penumbra" (1957)
Basically solo piano, with very light accompaniment -- a little brushed drum, some modest electric guitar. I like Elpidio's style, but I have to admit this album was underwhelming. It's not as swinging as his other work, and more dinner lounge-ish than the dance stuff. Worth checking out, but too reserved for me. The only track I really enjoyed was "Fita Amarela," which has some nice interplay with the guitarist. Otherwise, I'll pass on this one.

Fats Elpidio "Musica E Penumbra, v.2" (RCA Victor, 1958)

Fats Elpidio "Hi-FAts Elpidio Toca Para Voce Dancar" (RCA Victor, 1959)

Fats Elpidio "Piano Bossa Nova" (RCA Victor, 1960)
Punctuating a decades-long career, this bossa-themed LP has veteran samba-cancao/gafieira pianist Fats Elpidio in a mellow mood, covering newly-minted classics by Tom Jobim ("Meditacao," "Samba De Uma Nota So") and Oscar Castro-Neves, alongside material by Elpidio's longtime cohort, Zaccarias, and an eclectic mix of composers. The arrangements are mostly pretty pedestrian, standard-issue light-orchestral dance fare; Elpidio's piano plunking is elegant, but not as inspired as some of his earlier work... It's all very comfortable and conservative. Worth checking out if you're in an EZ frame of mind, but not really all that essential.

Fats Elpidio "Musica E Penumbra, v.3" (RCA Victor, 1960)

Fats Elpidio "Samba Da Madrugada" (Masterplay, 1962)
There's both piano plunking and some slinky organ riffs -- not sure if Elpidio is playing both, or if the organist is someone else. But it's cool! Way more swinging and loose than Walter Wanderley, for example... Worth a spin!

Sexteto De Jazz Moderno "Bossa Nova" (RCA Victor, 1963) (LP)
An unusually sharp jazz set from Brazil -- half-cool, half bebop -- featuring excellent saxophone work by alto Jorginho and tenor Aurino, guitar by fabled session player Jose ("Ze") Menezes and piano from good ol' Fats Elpidio. The songs are mostly standards such as "One Note Samba," given room to breathe in longer jam sessions (with actual improv) and are a pleasant break from the fast, aggressive style of the bossa trios of the time. Definitely worth checking out.

Fats Elpidio "Fats Samba" (Copacabana, 1964)
(Produced by Moacyr Silva)

Another swinging set from pianist Elpidio... Not sure who the backing musicians were, but it's a pretty tight band, apparently led by Moacyr Silva. There's an overly-frantic tone to a lot of these arrangements, but it's still fun stuff, and Elpidio's plunky performance style is fun. He's better on the slower numbers, but this record as a whole is pretty perky and uptempo, so it may get on your nerves after a while. Some songs I like better than others... Includes a lot of samba and bossa standards, done in a fierce big band style.


Quarteto Excelsior "Coquetel Dancante, v.1" (Black Round Record, 2009)
Apparently this is a digital-only reissue of the two Quarteto Excelsior albums listed above...


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