Black Orpheus the film by Marcel Camus, and its soundtrack, were the signposts by which the world first learned of samba and bossa nova and fell in love with it. Therefore, it is staggering to consider that it took until 2008 for a definitive edition of the soundtrack to be released, one that assembled all the songs and music heard in the film. After all, this is the score that created the partnership of composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and poet Vinicius de Moraes, and introduced the brilliant and influential guitarist Luiz Bonfá. Universal France has assembled all the sound recordings into one 17-track volume. These include the two original 45 EPs, and the 10" 33 rpm album, as well as some tracks that have never appeared before now. Given the wild success of the readily recognizable album on both LP and CD over the decades, this amounts to an entirely new hearing of Brazilian music -- bossa was emerging in Rio at the time too, a brand new genre. The sounds of the various samba schools from the carnival parades are accompanied by the gorgeous instrumental interludes by Bonfá (including the now ubiquitous "Manha De Carnaval," written with poet Antonio Mara), and the songs of de Moraes and Jobim (including "A Felicidade," as sung by Elizeth Cardoso). The songs may be well known now; the music of the favelas, as practiced by the escolas de samba with their agogo bells, atabaques drumming, stomping batacuda solos, and duels, folk line chants, and unusual (even now if one thinks about it) blend of African rhythms, dissonance, and extended harmonics, is still revolutionary today. A 13-minute encore medley by Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete that recorded in 1966 at the Monterey Jazz Festival, has been added as a bonus cut, wedding "Manha de Carnaval," to "A Felicidade," and "Samba de Orfeo." The presentation is handsome. There is an exhaustive historical essay by French scholar Anaïs Fléchet, complete discographical information, and photos. The sound quality is only fair, but considering the neglect of the original masters, it's actually remarkable.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo