Mystery Samba

If you want to introduce a friend to jazz, what are some of the albums that you should give to him or her?

Some Ellington and Basie compilations are a must. Kind of Blue, natch. A Love Supreme? Most definitely.

But I bet that if you give your jazz-neophyte pally a CD of Stan Getz playing bossa nova that would be the album that he or she plays the most. The gentle rhythms, the lovely melodies and the cool vibes of bossa nova jazz seem to connect with people not accustomed to the energy of the straight-up American variety.

While Getz/Gilberto or Getz Au Go Go are the most likely candidates for your friend’s collection, you should mention Jazz Samba. It’s not the first bossa-jazz record, but Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd’s LP was the catalyst for a full-on bossa-nova craze in the 1960s.

You might also want to tell your buddy that Getz and Byrd were only partially responsible for its impetus.

While Getz had the star name and Charlie Byrd had visited Brazil the year before with his trio on a State Department tour, the 1962 session that produced Jazz Samba would not have been successful were it not for the contributions of bassist Keter Betts and drummer Buddy Deppenschmidt. The rhythm tandem bought records while in Brazil, played with local musicians, and brought their enthusiasm for bossa nova back to the U.S.

And it was Betts and Deppenschmidt who convinced Byrd to try bossa nova, and it was only after the bassist and drummer were brought on board for the Jazz Samba session that Getz and Byrd were able to produce an album that helped alter the face of jazz.

David Adler reports on the real story of the making of Jazz Samba and the way it has influenced the musical landscape even today. In the process he uncovered some aborted sessions with a different rhythm section, often-conflicting memories from the people involved with the project, including producer Creed Taylor and engineer Rudy Van Gelder, and surprisingly little historical information on the importance of Betts and Deppenschmidt to the success of Jazz Samba.

One thing I think is clear from Adler’s article—but which I’d like to stress again— is that Betts and Deppenschmidt are not bitter about not receiving enough credit; they just want the record set straight for the future. While Betts is somewhat reticent to discuss Jazz Samba, Deppenschmidt has been ready to talk for years.

I only wish Getz and Byrd were around to share their memories. Still, we’ll always have the music.

And your friends will too.

Originally published in June 2004

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