Album Remarks & Appraisals:
This bossa nova rarity was the inspiration behind Berlin’s coolest jazz collective. “Bossa Nova and jazz-styled improvisation are an especially good combination.” So said Venezuelan Juan Romero, who had a good understanding of South American folk music. He had also studied classical guitar at the music conservatory in Munich, Germany. And Romero had listened to a lot of jazz albums. But he had not had many chances to play jazz. That all changed after he met two Americans; Guitarist Ira Kris and saxophonist/ flutist Frank St. Peter moved to Munich, and formed a trio with Romero. He taught the two seasoned jazz musicians South American rhythms and melodies. In exchange, Romero learned the ins and outs of jazz. It was a time that bossa nova was “in”; the three found gigs in such famous clubs as Munich’s Domicile and Stuttgart’s Atlantic. For their MPS album debut, they expanded the trio into a quintet. Bassist Jimmy Woode and drummer Tony Inzalaco, two more Americans, jumped into the band. Inzalaco was the drummer in the Edelhagen Orchestra. Woode played in the Kenny Clark/Francis Boland Big Band. These two accomplished professionals showed they also had mastered the diverse Latin rhythms. “Jazzanova” contains pieces from Brazilian stars Baden Powell and Edu Lobo as well as compositions from Kris and St. Peter. The album is a spirited reminder of the bossa nova boom and the many American musicians who were in Europe during the sixties and seventies.
Personnel: Ira Kris (guitar); Juan Romero (guitar); Frank St. Peter (flute); Tony Inzalaco (drums).
Liner Note Author: Hans Hielscher.
Recording information: MPS-Studio, Villingen, Germany (07/1971).
Photographer: Wolfgang Oberle.
Though it wasn't recorded until 1971, Ira Kris' Jazzanova is one of the true delights to come out of the post-bossa nova era. Kris, an expat American jazz guitarist, and countryman flutist Frank St. Peter had moved to Munich and begun studying the South American rhythms and folk forms they'd loved since the '50s with Venezuelan guitarist Juan Romero. It proved to be a cultural exchange because the American duo taught Romero jazz improvisation. Forming a trio, they played club gigs in Munich and Stuttgart. In Germany bossa nova had come into style a little later than it had in America or France, and it was still being played on the radio as well as in clubs. After signing a one-album deal with MPS, the trio drafted another pair of expatriate Americans: the great bassist Jimmy Woode (of Clarke-Boland Big Band fame) and drummer Tony Inzalaco. The indisputable highlight on the set is Edú Lobo's "Reza" (one of two tunes by him), which includes stellar solos from both guitarists (Kris on electric and Romero's nylon-string). The burning interplay kicks the samba groove hard with rock-steady percussion and Woode's inventive rhythm-stretching bass strings. Other highlights include two Baden Powell tunes, the opener "Canto de Ossanha" and "Canto de Iemanja," the twinned melody lines on the latter between flute and electric guitar awe-inspiring. The slippery groove in Kris' "Juanito" is laid-back and sultry, and adds just enough of a blues vibe to seamlessly wed blues and West Coast jazz to bossa -- Woode's fat, earthy comping is a knockout and St. Peter's command of the lyric melody is so fluid and humid, it's a wonder this wasn't a hit single. Jazzanova might have been a one-off, but it stands as one of the top-tier entries in the mighty MPS catalog. ~ Thom Jurek