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Celebrating 60 years of "Jazz Samba"

Album cover
Verve Records
Album cover

The landmark Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd album Jazz Samba was recorded 60 years ago. The influential recording introduced the uniquely Brazilian 'Bossa Nova' style of music to jazz fans in the United States. Here's how it happened.

Saxophonist Stan Getz got his start in Woody Herman’s big band in the late 1940s. He was one of the featured soloist in Herman’s legendary sax section, "The Four Brothers".

Getz left the the big band to start his solo career in the early 1950s, and he became a well-known jazz star. Problems with taxes and heroin led him to relocate to Copenhagen, Demark in 1958.

Around the same time, Charlie Byrd was building his reputation as a master guitarist.

Byrd partnered with bass player Keter Betts for gigs in Washington D.C. The duo was offered an opportunity to tour with the U.S. State Department's cultural diplomacy experiment, "Jazz Ambassadors."

Byrd toured in Europe in 1959 and in South America in 1961.

By the time Byrd and Betts returned from South America, Getz had come back from Denmark, and he was ready to re-start his career at home.

Getz stopped in to see Byrd at the Showboat Lounge in Washington D.C. in early 1961. Byrd invited the saxophonist to listen to some of the Bossa Nova albums he had discovered on his trip through Brazil. Getz liked what he heard, and took an idea for a recording session to Verve Records.

A few weeks later, record producer Creed Taylor gathered Byrd, Getz and four other musicians in Pierce Hall at D.C.'s All Souls Unitarian Church for the Jazz Samba recording session.

It took them just under 2 hours to record seven songs. Only one song required a second take.

Jazz Samba was released on April 20, 1962. A single from the album, written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça, called "Desifinado," debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

STAN GETZ & CHARLIE BYRD Desafinado (Tom Jobim)

Jazz Samba is the only jazz album to ever reach #1 on Billboard’s pop chart, and it stayed on the Billboard charts for 70 consecutive weeks. It sold half a million copies in 18 months. "Desifinado" won a Grammy for Best Jazz Performance - Soloist Or Small Group (Instrumental) in 1963.

Most importantly, Jazz Samba opened the door to Brazilian music and culture for listeners in the U.S.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.