For years, the story of Bud Shank's contribution to the development of Brazilian-jazz and bossa nova has remained largely untold. Bud's Brazilian-themed albums represent such a small fraction of his massive recording output that the focus of most past interviews have concentrated on his hundreds of albums as a leader and with Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson and other West Coast Jazz ensembles. Bud also isn't big on who-started-what controversies. But in the spirit of setting the record straight, Bud spoke with JazzWax about the role he and other West Coast musicians played in the development of Brazilian music in the 1950s. [photo of Bud above by William Claxton]
In Part 2 of my conversation with Bud on his Brazilian jazz recordings, he talks about his albums and those of other West Coast Jazz artists, and the influence those recordings had on Brazilian bossa nova emerging in Rio de Janeiro during the late 1950s:
JazzWax: Four years after your first Brazilian-themed recordings with Laurindo Almeida, Harry Babasin and Roy Harte, you recorded two more in 1958 and 1959. Can we call these the first bossa nova jazz albums?
Bud Shank: In all fairness, you really can’t categorize what we did on those dates as “bossa nova.” The rhythm section was wrong. The basis wasn’t there yet.
JW: What was the difference between the 1953 recording and the 1958 and 1959 recordings?
BS: Nothing, really. We had nothing from Brazil to listen to. It was more of the same, just a little more modern. We were bringing our own sound and marrying it to the Brazilian rhythm. The 1958 and 1959 recordings were part of the development that influenced Rio, which in turn influenced Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz.
JW: So your records were heard in Rio, which inspired the Brazilians to develop bossa nova. In turn, their late-1950s records influenced Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz and others up here in the early 1960s?
BS: My records—but also the recordings of Gerry [Mulligan], Chet [Baker], [Paul] Desmond, [Dave] Brubeck and many West Coast Jazz artists. They also were part of that same development. Nothing from New York was involved.
JW: That's fascinating. How exactly did you fit in?
BS: We were certainly a major part of the bossa nova’s development. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Antonio Carlos Jobim [pictured] and all his contemporaries down in Brazil decided that they were the new punks, they were the new exploratory kids. They said, “Why must we keep on playing the samba the same way they do during Carnival?” They wanted to break out and play something different.
JW: But they needed inspiration?
BS: That's right. They started listening to foreign records that were available to them in Rio. Miraculously, many of the records they got a hold of were from the West Coast of the U.S. It may have been the air routes. I don't know. The music they heard would later be known as West Coast Jazz. At the time, in the very early 1950s, it was played by Brubeck and Desmond, Shorty Rogers, [Jimmy] Giuffre and others.
JW: What role did your recordings with Laurindo Almeida play?
BS: Amidst all of the records that the Brazilians listened to were the 10-inch albums Laurindo and I had made with Harry Babasin and Roy Harte in late 1953 and early 1954. This is where their development started. It was through these albums that they learned about the chord changes and patterns we used in L.A.
JW: How were these songs different?
BS: The Brazilians wrote new songs with folk melodies, but unlike the old ones, they were using our chord cadence called 2-7, 5-7, 1—something all West Coast musicians were married to at the time.
JW: What does that cadence mean?
BS: On a C-major scale consisting of C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C, the No. 2 is D and No. 5 is G. The G is the dominant chord change that moves you from one key to another. It’s the way you get there, the road, so to speak. What happened was that jazz musicians added the D-minor 7 chord (“2-7”) before the G-7, giving you a nice chord sequence. The notes in a D-minor 7 are very similar to the notes in a G-7 chord. It just gives you a much better bass line and pattern. It’s still taught in schools today. It has to be. Our whole West Coast school of improvisation is based on it.
JW: How did the Brazilians catch on?
BS: They had no one to study with or contact. They just had the West Coast jazz records and figured out what was going on musically. Then they started using that chord sequence in their songs, modernizing their songs and bringing them into the jazz world, which is essentially what they wanted to do. Maybe they knew it or maybe they didn’t. But that’s what they did.
JW: What you're saying is...
BS: The music of West Coast jazz that appeared out of L.A.—by the way, I hate the term “West Coast jazz” but I’ve been stuck in it for 50 years and have to talk about it so I still use it—had a huge influence on the Brazilians.
JW: But how do you know for sure that your albums with Laurindo and other West Coast jazz albums were directly influential?
BS: [Antonio Carlos] Jobim told me when I was in Rio in 1965. Recently, I appeared on a panel at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles as part of their series exploring the arts and development. The theme was "Jazz in the Early 1950s." People asked, “What happened to West Coast jazz in the mid-1950s?” I said, “That’s simple—it went to Rio.” It was obvious to me. When I brought it up at one of those meetings, people started to think.
JW: Samba plus West Coast Jazz equals bossa nova?
BS: Yes. Between what the Brazilians were doing, compositionally, and the whole feel, it was West Coast jazz and “cool.”
JW: What was the next big change?
BS: In the late 1950s, jazz musicians started going down to Brazil on State Department tours. They played with Brazilian musicians and brought Brazilian records back to the U.S. The jazz musicians and Brazilian records, in turn, influenced other U.S. jazz musicians and record producers, especially after the release and instant popularity of the movie Black Orpheus in 1959, which featured Luiz Bonfa's bossa nova music.
JW: So what is bossa nova?
BS: It’s a variation of the samba. But the rhythm pattern is different. It’s really a backward clave beat, which is used by Cuban musicians. The bossa nova guys just turned that beat around. That early bossa nova beat isn’t used anymore here or in Brazil. It was used to death in the early 1960s. Everybody that played bossa played it—even guys with big bands would use that figure, which was stupid. But the feeling of the music is still there.
JW: You recorded two pure bossa nova albums in 1962.
BS: Yes, Laurindo and I recorded Bossa Nova: Shorty Rogers and His Giants in June 1962. Then later that year I made a couple of albums with pianist Clare Fischer—Bossa Nova Jazz Samba and Brasamba. Laurindo and I also recorded Bossa Nova at Home and Away with Vic Lewis In January 1963.
JW: What was Clare Fischer's role?
BS: Clare was very adept at speaking Portuguese and Spanish. He spoke Portuguese very well. As a result, he knew a lot about the samba. When the bossa nova came to him through Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz’s recording, Jazz Samba, Fischer was ready for it. What he did was exchange the guitar for a piano, which gave the music more of a jazz sound rather than a folk feel, making the bossa nova more appealing to jazz musicians compared with the constant guitar sound.
Tomorrow, in the third and final part of our conversation, Bud talks about his unplanned trip to Rio in 1965, his visit to Jobim's apartment, and his current project with Brazilian pianist Joao Donato.
JazzWax tracks: One of the best compilations of Bud's middle bossa nova period (early 1960s) is on an out-of-print double-CD package from Fresh Sound called Bud Shank: Bossa Nova Years. The CD is very difficult to find, both in the U.S. and abroad. You may find it on eBay.
JazzWax thanks: Photos of the original 10-inch Laurindo Almeida Quartet album covers above featuring Bud Shank, Harry Babasin and Roy Harte were provided through the warm generosity of James A. Harrod, who owns one of the largest collections of West Coast Jazz albums and is working on a history of Pacific Jazz Records. Jim also provided album-cover photos of Laurindo and Bud in the studio at the top of this post (that's engineer Phil Turetsky in the background) as well as the ones here of Harry (left) and Laurindo. Big thanks, Jim!