Review: Nicola Conte – Jet Sounds (Bossa Per Due)

Have you ever had the impression that someone had gotten into your hip dad’s basement and started thumbing through his old record collection from the 1960s? If so, that might have been Nicola Conte sneaking in the side door, and leaving with a few armfuls of those scratchy old LPs.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s, and from the time I was three years old, I was spinning records on the Admiral hi-fi in the basement.  My parents’ tastes ran the gamut–we had the old A&M stuff, quite a few by Mancini, some cha-cha and mambo records, some assorted jazz and easy listening, and a smattering of Bossa Nova.  Listening to Conte’s debut album, Jet Sounds, I hear plenty of echoes of the past, reminiscent of what I used to stack up on the Admiral’s woefully overstressed record changer. 

Conte is a classically trained jazz musician, producer and DJ, hailing from Italy. His name has appeared on many remix compilations over the years.  This album is comprised of samples of existing recordings, used as a base on which he layers additional instruments and vocals.  While I am not familiar with many of the samples, one of which stood out immediately for me is “Mambo De Los Dandies”.  Having grown up with Mancini’s soundtrack to Charade, I have “Mambo Parisienne” embedded in my genetic code, and hearing that familiar percussion intro, sped up slightly and turned into a completely different tune, is a treat!  It is quite a manic little mambo, layered with an organ and sax, with brass punctuating throughout.  

The other tracks are no less of a joy.  The one “hit” on this album is “Bossa Per Due,” used in a commercial for the Acura CL back around 2001.  This swirling Bossa has a breezy attitude that is infectious.  This is similarly carried over to “Forma 2000”, another energetic Bossa with a syncopated organ figure throughout, where “Il Cerchio Rosso” takes Bossa into a swingin’ 60s easy listening style.  The title track takes the Bossa Nova into more of a big band territory, and “The In Samba” cops the frantic guitar lick from the Stan Getz/Cal Tjader “Ginza Samba”.  “Dossier Omega” and “Missione a Bombay” both sound as though they are lifted out of a globetrotting James Brown, with the Indian-flavored sitar and tabla.  “Jazz Pour Dadine” also has that Italian cinematic feel to it.

There are many colors throughout this disc, and the many layers may take a few listens to fully “get” the music.  But it is worth it!  This recording is, simply put, fun!  And interesting enough that its many layers give plenty to discover on subsequent listens.  This is one album I wish I’d discovered a dozen years ago when it was still new.  Highly recommended!

Note: this album was released in some countries under the Bossa Per Due title, with a rearranged track order.  The 2-LP vinyl release of Jet Sounds also has a rearranged track order, yet two of my favorite tracks are omitted–“The In Samba” and “Mambo De Los Dandies”.  (It really makes no sense, as two of the sides do not even clock in at 15 minutes.)