Tamba 4 – We and the Sea

Tamba 4 - We and the SeaTamba 4
We and the Sea
(Verve – 1967/2000)
  by John Barrett

Like the sea, they are turbulent; like the sea, they go where they will. Begun as a bossa group in 1960, Tamba 4 also had roots in classical music, with hints of the avant-garde. Listen to Luiz Eça, whose piano has no genre: he starts “O Morro” with a skeletal riff, barely suggesting the theme. The bridge is dissonant, with bitter rushes of sound – then he plays the tune warmly, helped by a samba guitar. After an elegant bass-walk, Eça opens the floodgates … a deep pool of echo. Cymbals join the impressionist fog, and the bowed bass adds weight; the theme comes back fast, then fades away. And then a new mood emerges: Eça does a lounge bit, Rubens Ohana cracks a heavy drum solo. We have heard many songs, none of them boring.

“Consolação” is another chameleon, starting on drums and a lively flute (Jose “Bebeto” de Castilho e Souza.) Eça pumps a great left-hand riff, Bebeto purrs above it – a bittersweet kind of tenderness. Fury follows silence, and stillness preceded by speed; the romantic finish is as unexpected as it is beautiful. Don’t try to predict this group: you won’t succeed, and the innovation will leave you breathless.

The other tracks are closer to conventional samba; not as thrilling as “O Morro”, but they have their own charms. Bebeto whispers his flute onto “Moça Flor”– and then he sings, in technique and voice close to Ivan Lins, who would start a few years later. (João Gilberto called Bebeto the best of the bossa singers.) “We and the Sea” sails with the flute; Dorio Ferreira has a rich guitar part, best heard on the opening. “Ossanha” is a prayer to the storm god; Bebeto sounds worried, trilling over a ton of drums. Then the storm clears, leading to a light melody; Eça reminds me a little of Vince Guaraldi. Staying by the water. “The Dolphin” moves slowly: Luiz ripples the waves, Bebeto holds a high, lovely note. It’s a tune to dream on, before “Consolação” wakes you up. As the album shows, the sea can be many things.