Tim Maia Week: Day 1 – Jamming with James Brown’s band

This week we’re excited to host author Allen Thayer for a week of exclusive outtakes from his new book on Tim Maia’s Racional Vols. 1 & 2!

He starts with the tale of a jam session of legendary status – quite literally, as it seems…


My first draft of this book was twice as long as the final product. During the first pass I felt a compulsion to include EVERY story of note about Tim Maia that I came across and inevitably these incidents would shed, for me at least, some light on his underestimated influence in Brazilian music. I couldn’t cut them out, until I was explicitly asked to. So, here, I share with the best of the outtakes from Tim Maia’s Tim Maia Racional Vols. 1 & 2 over the course of the book’s first week in distribution. If you come across any passage or reference that don’t make sense, as if they were lifted out of context, they, in fact, were cut ruthlessly, and reassembled to make enough sense to convince you to buy the book and figure out where this part would have been. READ THE BOOK. THE ONLY BOOK.

— Allen Thayer


Tim Maia’s Jam Session with James Brown’s band (J.B.’s)

After many attempts to obtain a visa to return to the U.S., Tim finally received the green light. His previously unsuccessful attempts probably had to do with his deportation ten years earlier and the resulting ten-year ban on reentry. On Tim’s shopping list were some Altec amplifiers they couldn’t find in Brazil and Paulinho Guitarra asked him to bring him back an electric guitar. According to record label Philips’ president at the time, Andre Midani, as a reward for his tremendous sales streak during the previous three years, arrangements were made for Tim to jam with James Brown’s legendary backing band, the J.B.’s, while in New York. “There went Tim enthusiastically and started recording about four songs under the admiring gaze of the gringos,” Midani tells in his memoir. “’What a big voice your artist has,’ they said. Days later, the phone rang at nine o’clock in the morning: it was Tim from New York. Tim waking so early in the morning was a sign of sleepless nights and a premonition of problems.”

Tim: Midani, you think I’m going to put my voice on these tracks? I will not do it, no. Unless you give me money to stay for a bit up here . . .

Andre: Tim, this recording was your dream and was to thank you for the success you brought to the company that we agreed for you to record in New York!

Tim: Maybe, but if you don’t give me the money I won’t put my vocals and you can do whatever you want with these tracks . . .

Andre: Let’s calm down, Tim. How long do you want to stay? –

Tim: I told you, Midani, some time . . . Three, four months or more . . . It depends.

“Of course I didn’t give him the money and the tracks recorded with the J.B.’s never appeared, which was really too bad,” Midani says.

Despite Midani’s narrative,  there is no evidence of this jam session ever occurring and my correspondence to confirm this event with the J.B.’s bandleader of the time, Fred Wesley, and James Brown’s manager, Alan Leeds, came up inconclusive. What leads me to believe that these sessions never actually took place is that none of Tim’s James Brown-obsessed band mates have any recollection of Tim talking about what would have certainly been a personal career highlight during his triumphant return to the U.S.

Paulinho Guitarra and Dom Pi were very close with Tim during these years (beginning in late 1974 for Dom Pi), so I find it surprising that Tim would have hid something so boast-worthy from his friends and fellow funk fanatics. Paulinho remembers the talk of it before Tim left: “I remember Tim telling me and he said, ‘I don’t believe it, but I’ll go and let’s see what happens. I wanna go there and buy the hi-fi equipment.’ So I ask him, ‘Tim, bring for me a Gibson SJ like the one Santana has,’ but I didn’t get it and instead he brought [for himself] a white German Shepherd.” Paulinho’s certain the jam session never happened, “because he would have talked about it and he said nothing about it. He never said anything to me about it and we lived together, we were together all the time. It could be that Andre [Midani] planned something or he had the intention, but it didn’t happen.” Paulinho does have definitive proof of Tim’s return to the U.S. in 1973 in the form of a postcard from Tim with a photo of a typical mid-century Times Square scene with the following words inscribed to his friend:

From the Archive of Paulinho Guitarra


Hello, hello Master Paulo,

Here everything is cool. I’m trying to bring the Altec amplifiers. I got to see everybody and it was a nice surprise. I bought a German Shepherd named Clyde [spelled “CLAID”]. I’m bringing him home with me and in a little I’ll be there.

Until then, a hug

Tim Maia

From the Archive of Paulinho Guitarra


Tim Maia’s Tim Maia Racional Vols. 1 & 2 is out now! Get your copy here

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