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Moacir Santos: Choros & Alegria

Moacir Santos (center) with producers Ze Nogueira (left) and Mario Adnet

Following up the magisterial two-disc set Ouro Negro, coproducers Mario Adnet and Ze Nogueira have given us another essential item in the Moacir Santos library. Now nearing his 80th birthday, Santos is a giant of Brazilian music but a Southern California resident since 1967, where he has worked mainly as a film composer and a teacher. He recorded for Blue Note briefly in the ’70s, thanks to a supportive push from Horace Silver. But his work from this period was practically lost to history until Adnet and Nogueira, with Santos’ blessing and participation, wrote the sumptuous new arrangements for Ouro Negro.

A comeback album of sorts, Ouro Negro is heavy on vocals and features such high-profile guests as Gilberto Gil, Djavan and Milton Nascimento. Choros & Alegria, by contrast, is almost entirely instrumental. It includes more of Santos’ songs from the mid-’60s and ’70s but also reaches back as far as 1942, when Santos was 16. Six of the tracks, in fact, are from the ’40s, and the closing “Felipe” is from 1991. While more concise than Ouro Negro, Choros & Alegria documents an even wider swath of Santos’ lifetime in music. Most of the material is previously unrecorded.

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