Percy Faith
The Music Of Brazil!






If there is something in the world of Exotica that is available in raw numbers, it is albums loaded with music by Brazilian composers. The prolific Canadian arranger and composer Percy Faith (1908–1976) adds another piece to the kaleidoscopic mosaic with The Music Of Brazil!, released in 1962 on Columbia Records and sporting 12 tracks, all of them written by Brazilian luminaries except for two tunes (co-)written by Faith himself. As expected, the arranger unleashes his colorful trademark strings which swirl vivaciously around and in-between horn-interspersed melodies, mellifluous flute sinews and Latin percussion that is astutely fitting – and mandatory – in the Brazilian setting.


An Exotica album in the true sense of the term, The Music Of Brazil! consists of songs and ayres that were already big classics back then, but Faith does not shy away from pushing obscure compositions into the spotlight too. As is typical for Brazilian albums, fast Samba rhythms and dreamier sections go hand in hand. On top of this, one also has to face a rather doleful and darker set of overtones. Margarita Lecuona’s Taboo, while not on board here, comes to mind with its mystical dun-colored twilight tones and affectionate passion. If you know this Exotica gold standard that has been interpreted hundreds of times, you might sense which timbre is at times present. Notwithstanding these shadier segues, Percy Faith composes a gleeful album… and the opener shows just that.


Is there a better way to start a Space-Age/Exotica string-heavy 60’s album about the traditions of Brazil than with Ary Barroso’s eponymous Brazil? Percy Faith does not only do the world-famous melody justice which is played on good old strings, but makes sure that the sense of traveling is always perceptible. Heavily scintillating castanets, brass blebs which back the strings and eventually reach the foreground, as well as an uplifting tempo make this an aural joyride along Brazil’s magic coastlines. Waldir Azevedo’s less-considered Delicado then enchants in its own peculiar way, as Percy Faith is doing his Henry Mancini impression here: a semi-Gothic harpsichord bubbles in-between the interstices of a bongo chaparral, whirling brass blasts and quavering strings add a dose of strong Latinism to the scenery, although they cannot possibly destroy the elating arrangement, but only making it stronger and more versatile. This is Space-Age par excellence, delicately weird and then skillfully dedicated.


While Joaquim Taborada’s Tu Sabes evokes a rain forest during its Pagan flute-carried anacrusis which then leads to a strongly rufescent Tango structure full of besotted strings and lamentos aplenty, Don Alfonso’s and Milton Trindade’s fast-paced Ba-Tu-Ca-Da is astutely realized by Percy Faith, as the Batucada genre means breakneck speed, and even though the Canadian arranger goes for an upbeat midtempo setting, the plinking tambourines, acoustic guitar splinters and deep drums make this a slick rendition. The follow-up Amorada (Brasileirinho) sees Faith collaborate with the afore-featured Waldir Azevedo and enchants with its guitar licks in the spotlight, a second guitar as the rhythmic backdrop, shakers en masse and glissando-fueled brass layers, whereas the last tune of side A, called The Bandit, is the theme from O Cangaceiro, written by Michael Carr, Milton Nascimento and Zeb Turner, surprising here with glitzy hi-toms, effulgent strings and faux-ferocious brass counterparts which soon turn into brightness.


Side B starts in a similar fashion to side A by featuring another world-famous Barroso composition that Exotica fans know by heart: Baía à la Percy Faith works gorgeously well due to the thicket of maracas, the clarinet backing and the almost piercingly icy string flumes which are then bolstered by even more strings and rising horns. The percussion is lofty and loaded with plasticity, the flute cascades spiral downwards, and the euphony is simply too great. Brace yourself for the tachycardia take on Zequinha de Abreu’s and Aloysio Oliveira’s quirky anthem Tico-Tico, which is always used to showcase an orchestra’s or combo’s skill level in coping with fast rhythms and a staccato shrapnel. This tune not only marks the return of the creepy harpsichord, but is also supercharged with cloudless sunscapes, bongo bubbles and the occasional histrionic wall of Latin strings. The traditional but not necessarily overly well-known Tutu Maramba follows, also known as Little Dreamer, an expected downbeat arrangement which appalls via its opening threnody and forsakenness as depicted by the strings, but then continues to oscillate through light-hearted and half-serious states, making this the lackluster black sheep and least exotic tune of the album.


Percy Faith’s own Maxixe (Dengoza) breaks the sorrowful state and clashes into the parade by being the parade: aqueously twirling strings, maraca-infested 2/4 bongo rhythms and thermal brass particles waft through the afternoon atmosphere. Lina Pesce’s Atrevido (Bem Te Vi Atrevido) ventures into the tempo-related climes of Tico-Tico and features ebulliently blowing string airflows, hammer-like brass blebs and short stops for horn fanfares par excellence. The good mood always outweighs that Latin sense of lovestoned devotion by far. A hyper-hectic but likeable workout-compatible ditty. The finale is an interpretation of Enric Madriguera’s The Minute Samba which, er, runs for three minutes, but what the heck, its glitzy castanet-bongo coupling drives the strings into fast-paced climes, the flute flecks carry military march allusions with them, but all in all, the harmonic overtones make this a cloudless-tumular conclusion.


The Music Of Brazil!, in contrast to a lot of Percy Faith’s other records, is indeed an Exotica work. Two reasons come to mind immediately: firstly, quite a few tunes are well-known in Exotica lands and constantly interpreted by the favorite quartet of your choice. In this regard, Arroso’s gems Baía/Bahia and Brazil come to mind, as does Tico-Tico. And secondly, the percussion is mercilessly tropical and exotic; it has every right to be, for it is Latin percussion from Brazil and its neighboring countries that makes up the majority of the instrumental pool of percussion devices found in genre-related records. Canada's famous composer injects many a characteristic trait from the adjacent Space-Age genre – the fluxion of strings and the majestic euphony of the brass layers come to mind – but there is also one particularly Latin tonality found in the track list, and that is the often cited shady-mournful lamento.


The Tango Tu Sabes and parts of Tutu Maramba are chock-full with doleful heaviness and yearning bursts which are not always compatible to everyone’s taste. I count myself to that group. Exotica can be dangerous, adventurous, scary and dubious, but I often have my fair share of problems with enjoying lugubrious tone sequences if there is no cheeky helix or soothing circumambience encapsulating the intersection. One odd inclusion is the harpsichord in two tracks, but it works wonders and inherits a sneaky amicability and glee that is often amiss in Henry “Mr. Harpsichord” Mancini’s music. And finally, the many sun-soaked guitars emanate the warmth of each slapped string and round off a high-budget symphonic Exotica album. I still like the quartet-based takes on the Brazilian material a tad better, but regardless of my opinion, The Music Of Brazil! is a good record with a few gems in-between the dobs, not duds. Available on vinyl, CD and as a download version.


Exotica Review 449: Percy Faith – The Music Of Brazil! (1962). Originally published on Sep. 5, 2015 at