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Brazilian guitar icon Bola Sete sounds radiant as ever on 'Samba in Seattle,' a 3-CD set

Bola Sete at The Penthouse
David Azose
Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete at The Penthouse in Seattle; 'Samba in Seattle : Live at the Penthouse, 1966-1968' is due out on Dec. 3.

Bola Sete, the effervescent Brazilian acoustic guitarist, was a known entity in jazz circles by the mid-1960s — a celebrated sideman to Dizzy Gillespie, a trusted collaborator of Vince Guaraldi, and a headliner in his own right, notably at the Monterey Jazz Festival, where he recorded a popular album in '66. This same span of time also saw Sete make annual trips to The Penthouse, where he was graciously received.

Samba in Seattle : Live at the Penthouse, 1966-1968 is a transfixing document of those encounters. Produced by Zev Feldman, and remastered from the original tape reels in cooperation with Sete's estate, it will be released by Tompkins Square as a 3-CD boxed set on Dec. 3. WBGO is proud to premiere a track from the set: "O Barquinho," a beloved bossa nova tune composed by Roberto Menescal.

Bola Sete, "O Barquinho"

"O Barquinho," which translates to "The Little Boat," was performed by a kaleidoscopic array of Brazilian artists, including João Gilberto. (Its lyrics paints a picture of idyllic summer, with the little boat gliding smooth, "without intention," or seemingly a care in the world.) Sete gives the song a delicate treatment, starting with a rubato introduction embroidered with classical filigree. When he brings in the tempo, he's joined by the members of his trio, bassist Sebastião Neto and drummer Paulinho Magalhães.

Bola Sete Trio

Tompkins Square previously shared another track from the new set, "Consolação," and will officially release "O Barquinho" later this month. Elsewhere on the track list, you'll find bossa nova staples like "One Note Samba" and "Corcovado," classical pieces like Heitor Villa-Lobos' "Prelude No. 1," and jazz fare like "Satin Doll."

The set comes with a 40-page booklet that features rare photographs along with Sete testimonials from the likes of Carlos Santana and George Winston. It also includes essays by Feldman; the late, revered guitarist John Fahey; and critic Greg Casseus, who notes: "There is a sense of coming full circle in the fact of these amazing and previously unheard live recordings being from Seattle because that city was coincidentally the first place where Bola played with Dizzy after the latter 'stole' him from the Sheraton hotel chain."

Samba in Seattle, of course, isn't the only notable historical release this year with The Penthouse pedigree: as we've chronicled on Jazz United and elsewhere, John Coltrane's A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle was recorded in the same club. Feldman has produced a slew of albums captured by The Penthouse system, including Wes Montgomery's Smokin' in Seattle (for Reel to Real) and Cannonball Adderley's Swingin' in Seattle (for Resonance).

Bola Sete

As in most of those previous releases, Samba in Seattle owes its existence in part to the tape archive amassed by The Penthouse's owner, Charlie Puzzo, and to the original radio broadcasts made by Jim Wilke, a Seattle jazz radio legend.

In the new liner notes, Charlie Puzzo, Jr. thanks everyone involved, adding: "I love to talk about The Penthouse, but the real star is always the music. Bola Sete takes me to a magical place. I know you will enjoy this small snapshot of time from my father's club. As always, I'll continue to do my part to help release music from The Penthouse for everyone to enjoy."

Samba in Seattle: Live at The Penthouse, 1966-1968 will be released on Tompkins Square Records on Dec. 3; preorder here.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, Nate Chinen is editorial director at WBGO and a regular contributor to NPR Music.