In March 1961, over two years after the fall of the Cuban government, Congress passed the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act. It mandated an increase in governmental programs "to enhance mutual understanding between the United States and other countries." Many of those "other countries" were in South America. [Pictured above: Herbie Mann]
Four months later in July '61, jazz promoter Monte Kay and Alex Valdes produced the American Jazz Festival at the Ritz Theater in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The touring band of State Department-sponsored musicians who played there—including flutist Herbie Mann, saxophonist Paul Winter and guitarist Charlie Byrd—also appeared in Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre (Brazil), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Montevideo (Uruguay) and Santiago (Chile).
Later that year, the U.S. State Department sent guitarist Charlie Byrd, his wife Ginny, bassist Keter Betts and drummer Buddy Deppenschmidt to eight cities in Brazil—Bahia, Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Recife, Belo Horizonte and Belém. [Picured above, from left: Buddy Deppenschmidt, Charlie Byrd and Keter Betts with Ginny Byrd on the far right]
Mann—an early student and advocate of World music—had become familiar with bossa nova from pianist and accordionist João Donato, who had been living in California since 1960. When Mann returned to the U.S. after his '61 South American tour, he was captivated by a new, cool Brazilian folk-jazz sound. But to experience the music up-close, Mann wanted to to return to Brazil and record with musicians there.
In the October 27, 1962 issue of Billboard, correspondent Jack Maher wrote an article entitled, "It's a Great Big Bossa-Filled World We Live In, Says Almost Everybody." In the article, Maher noted that Mann had left earlier in the month for a three-week bossa nova tour of Brazil.
Mann had been recording bossa nova for Atlantic since early 1962—around the time that Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz recorded Jazz Samba for Verve. Mann's 1962 bossa nova albums were Brazil, Bossa Nova and Blues (early 1962); Right Now (March-April 1962); and Do the Bossa Nova (Oct. 1962).
The latter album was recorded in Rio and included individual sessions with Sergio Mendes, Antonio Carlos Jobim [pictured above], Baden Powell, Bossa Tres, Joao Gilberto and a 17-piece percussion group.
With these albums, Mann established the sleek potential of the music. Many other musicians and arrangers took note. Listening to these swinging recordings today, you can hear the blueprint that was used by those who exported Brazilian musicians and leveraged the samba—an invasion made official a month later in November '62 with America's first bossa nova concert at New York's Carnegie Hall.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find all of these Herbie Mann recordings on two CDs—Herbie Mann: Brazil, Bossa Nova & Blues + Right Now here and Do the Bossa Nova with Herbie Mann. Complete Brazilian Sessions here (both Fresh Sound).
JazzWax clip: Here's Herbie Mann in early 1962 playing One Note Samba—making do with Cuban percussion instruments like the conga, which weren't actually part of the mix in Brazil. The vibes were used to add a strings feel...
And here's Mann in Rio in October '62 in an authentic setting with pianist Luis Carlos Vinhas playing Voce E Eu...