Galvanised by a passion for soul, jazz, funk, folk, and Brazilian samba, Judith Ravitz’s Bolerio (in Hebrew, Yehudit Ravitz – בוא לריו) brilliantly reimagines the music of the Brazilian legend Jorge Ben. Increasingly sought-after, housing as it does her seminal take on “Dia De Indio” – often re-edited and sampled, bootlegged but never bettered – it’s a uniquely thrilling LP in its own right.
The year is 1983, and Ravitz discovered that Jorge Ben was touring Israel with his crack backing band A Banda Do Zé Pretinho. After joining her in the studio, the ensemble reinvented a selection of Ben’s killer tracks that the band regularly performed. On Bolerio – “come to Rio” - Ravitz handed them equal billing as they aided a recontextualization of Ben’s music for an audience that was barely aware of him.
These versions are by no means straight re-treads. Far from it. The highlights are many and memorable. The aforementioned “Dia De Indio”, a strutting, electronic samba-funk with stabbing bass and fluid arrangements, sounds so current and fresh that it’s hard to believe it’s now 35 years old. Its vibrant ambience has been likened to the wiry dubbiness of King Sunny Ade’s Synchro System and it’s easy to see why. Indeed, the electro elements add a futuristic feel that the original could never comfortably possess.
Undeniably rocking more furiously than Ben’s versions, the album begins with a throbbing take on “Boiadeiro”, the opener from Ben’s Salve Simpatia. Ravitz flows wonderfully whilst the band get busy, introducing a heaviness and complexity absent from the original, as wild bass blends with an intensity to the guitar playing that’s quite stunning.
Ravitz’s cover of the infamous “Taj Mahal” incorporates the lush Brazilian boogie of the time whilst “Santa Clara”, already a standout from Bem Vinda Amizade, is morphed into a deep electronic groove. Lent an airiness by this arrangement, the track benefits from Ravitz’s exquisite range and floats by on a bed of warm keys to conjure a gorgeous melodic melancholy throughout.
The timeless “Que Pena” from Ben’s classic self-titled LP, released in 1969, gets an injection of warm Israeli funk that eschews the downbeat vibe of the original. Led by an electric piano, A Banda Do Zé Pretinho elevate the track and turn it into a weighty samba boogie. So substantial is this take, it effectively renders Ben’s version to that of a bare bones sketch. Equally, the beautifully mournful piano and plaintive horns that grace “Que Maravilha”, coupled with Ravitz’s vocal phrasing of spine-tingling clarity, contribute a depth of feeling and longing that hit hard.
We’ve pressed just 500 copies of this gem with strictly no option for repress. The iconic artwork has been beautifully restored throughout, and includes a printed inner sleeve. Remastered from the original tape transfers by Simon Francis, it’s been pressed at 180g for the first time.