Dallas was hardly the capital of Latin-tinged summer sixties' pop in 1969, so when a band in their early-twenties named Triste Janero (a name curiously derived from the Portuguese for 'Sad January') released their only album Meet Triste Janero, the world hardly shuddered to a halt. Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 had authentic Latin origins, and had captured an appreciative Jazz audience. To Triste Janero's peril, a lack of promotion from original label White Whale ensured that only the band's hometown offered a welcoming reception, and soon after they disbanded. That's a crying shame, as Meet Triste Janero is a soft-pop Latin-drenched classic of shimmering, warm sounds. Thankfully, revisionist reissue heroes Rev-Ola have given it the remastered treatment and produced the first compact disc version of Meet Triste Janero, which is timely for collectors of the original vinyl judging by the high prices it fetches on auction sites.
The beautiful thing about Triste Janero is being able to listen to them tread the fine line between pop and jazz whilst simultaneously stamping their own trademark over each song. After the sultry instrumental taster A Beginning Dream opens the proceedings, album standout Rene De Marie casually seduces the listener with its stark chords and evocative vocals by lead temptress Barbara Baines, still only a young teenager at the time. The band's wonderful arrangement of the Bacharach-David classic Walk On By even predates the emerging fusion of electric guitars with contemporary jazz, a genre predominant of the early seventies and exemplified by Santana's Caravanserai.
The cover of Nilsson's Without Her switches genders from a male to a female perspective, and is the closest Triste Janero come to a Brasil '66 sound. Before you know it, they've also tread through territories pioneered by Jobim, Francis Lai and even The Lovin' Spoonful. The band's take on the latter's You Didn't Have To Be So Nice arguably usurps the original as standard version.
Jazzy instrumental finale T.J. Blues is a lengthy closer that allows the band some improvisational experimentation. You can clearly sense Triste Janero's desire to flex their musical muscles, and even though the full running time finishes around the mid-thirty-minute mark, they've packed enough trademark punches to fully land their own stylistic approach to some very strong numbers. The band are helped by bassist and producer Norm Miller, whose arrangements did little to betray the lack of production values on offer.
You only have to look at the blissful, naive charm of the original album cover artwork to fully understand the selling concept of Meet Triste Janero. The band, running hand-in-hand through a bright field dressed in smart-casual hippie clothing, typify the sunny aesthetic so prevalent throughout the songs. It's albums such as these that serve as buried treasures; they fell off the radar quickly after birth and yet are clearly missing pieces to a vital jigsaw of tight musicianship and genre excellence. Meet Triste Janero is a lost classic of a debut album; it demonstrates startling maturity from a very young band and it expertly blends together differing genres of sunshine-guitar-pop to form an embracing, cherished sound. Be it a warm summer's day or even a sad January, Triste Janero deserve a daily spin on your stereo.
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