Les Baxter, The Colors of Brazil/African Blue

Dan Epstein

By Dan Epstein

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The Colors of Brazil/African Blue

Les Baxter

A prodigiously talented composer, arranger and conductor, Les Baxter is best known today for albums like Ritual of the Savage and Tamboo!, which kick-started the whole '50s "exotica" craze popularized by Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman. The Colors of Brazil/African Blue — a pairing of two of Baxter's mid-'60s LPs — finds our hero ditching the Polynesian instrumentation of his exotica recordings in favor of bossa nova grooves and African percussion, resulting in some intoxicating easy listening. Sure, the covers of "Who Will Buy" and "Born Free" might be cheesy, but Baxter's swinging arrangements of such Brazilian classics as "A Felicidade," "Canta De Ossanha" and "Berimbau" are undeniably gorgeous, while the funky marimbas of "Johannesburg Blues" are just waiting to be sampled by some creative DJ. Best of all is Baxter's dreamy take on Francis Lai's oft-covered "A Man and a Woman," which conjures up vivid mental images of cocktails, stewardesses and white shag carpets. How can you possibly resist?