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Bossa Nova

AAJ Staff By

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In 1959, an unassuming guitarist/vocalist named João Gilberto from the Brazilian state of Bahia started a quiet revolution with his recordings "Chega de Saudade (No More Blues)" and "Desafinado (Off Key)" on the Odeon label. They featured arrangements by a young native of Rio de Janeiro, Antonio Carlos Jobim. Gilberto's whisper-toned, Afro-Indian-influenced Portuguese vocals complemented his unique guitar style, which ingeniously reduced and resyncopated the samba's intricate polyrhythms down to the most essential beats. Jobim expanded Gilberto's harmonies with French impressionist chord progressions. He also codified the guitarist's unique rhythmic approach into a catchy combo rhythm similar to the Cuban clave, which left room for improvisation. In "Desafinado" Gilberto sang a line that's translated as ..."it's the bossa nova. It's very natural..." and thus unwittingly gave birth to a new style of music destined to win over the world.

Bossa nova (literally "new thing") became the name of this seductively syncopated sound of love that peaked in popularity in the mid-'60s. Today, the music is enjoying a resurgence of interest not only in classic bossa nova recordings being reissued on CD but also in recent bossa nova recordings, including those by a new generation of Brazilian artists who add hip hop, drum 'n' bass beats and LP samples to the traditional bossa nova sound.

Vinicius Cantuaria
Vinicius
Transparent Music, 2001

Luscious framework of traditional bossa nova—steamy rhythms, bittersweet melodies.
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Wave
A&M Records, 1967

Stunningly seductive record, possibly Jobim's best. Includes instant standards "Wave" and "Triste."
Stan Getz
Getz/Gilberto
Verve, 1963

When bossa nova seemed in danger of being written off as a fad, this classic album came out and made it a permanent part of music.
Antonio Carlos Jobim
The Composer Plays
Verve, 1963

In his first American album, Jobim presents a dozen of his songs, each one destined to become a standard —an astounding batting average. Includes "Desafinado," "Corcovado," "The Girl From Ipanema," "Meditation,""One Note Samba," and others.
Joao Gilberto
Joao Voz E Violao
Verve, 2003

With just his voice and his guitar, Gilberto fills the heart and head with enough musical force to equal a symphony orchestra.
Stan Getz
Jazz Samba
Verve, 1962

This classic session launched the bossa nova craze in the early '60s and helped introduce Antonio Carlos Jobim's music to the United States.
Vince Guaraldi
Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus
Fantasy Jazz, 1962

Cover versions of tunes from the Antonio Carlos Jobim/Luiz Bonfa score for the film Black Orpheus.
Sergio Mendes
Swinger from Rio/Beat of Brazil
Collectables, 1999

Some of the best jazz bossa from one of the art's best assimilators and accompanists: a 1966 American set with Phil Woods, Art Farmer, Hubert Laws and Jobim and a 1967 Brazilian set with some of the music's best originators. Shimmering, sensual and worthy—still.
Joe Henderson
Double Rainbow
Verve, 1995

Henderson avoids Jobim's best-known songs in favor of some of his more obscure (but equally rewarding) melodies.
Toots Thielemans
The Brasil Project, Vol. 2
Private Music, 1993

Guitarist, harmonica player, and whistler Toots Thielemans' successful followup to the critically acclaimed Brasil Project.

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