Tuesday, April 15, 2008

No. 454: Getz/Gilberto

Band: Stan Getz and João Gilberto
Album: Getz/Gilberto
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Along with "Kind of Blue," "Getz/Gilberto" is my favorite jazz album. It's beautiful in a way that soft, melodic music can only be.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Jazz is a tricky thing on this list, obviously, and
Best song: The whole album is great. "Doralice" is a great upbeat song while "The Girl from Ipanema" is a classic regardless of genre.
Worst song: There are no bad songs on this one.
Is it awesome?: Absolutely.

It's an excuse you've heard from me multiple times. I cannot, with any real substance, write about this album eloquently. It is striking in its softness, beautiful in its dissonance and rhythmic in its syncopation.

In the early 1960s, Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd took a trip down to Brazil via a State Department trip. Getz came back with an appreciation for bossa nova -- the new style -- and cut "Jazz Samba" with Byrd in 1962. The lead song, "Desafinado," (English: Off key) is an Antonio Carlos Jobim number considered to be an iconic bossa nova song. Getz and Byrd's version of the song is nice; both are excellent players.

But, in 1964, Getz hooked up with João Gilberto and Jobim (two Brazilians superstars of the genre) to start a small bossa nova craze in the States. "Getz/Gilberto," as the album was called, took many of Jobim's best songs and brought the brilliant genre to the masses.

The album made a star of Gilberto's wife, Astrud. A fantastically beautiful young woman from Bahia, Gilberto's low(ish) voice fits the mellow classic bossa nova instrumentation (classical guitar, bass, piano and drums) among Getz' expressive sax. Her interplay with her husband on the lead single, "The Girl from Ipanema," is brilliant and is largely what made the song the classic it is.

The song's bilingual lyrics (first in Portuguese, then in English) make for an exotic sound, but the genre's conventions are evident. Soft vocals -- not the harsh, obnoxiuosness of Frank Sinatra's later cover that makes me want to stick knives in my ears -- and Getz' saxophone doubles Astrud Gilberto's, well, sultry vocals.

Sonically, there are few things better than "Getz/Gilberto. Maybe it's the romance of it, but the record can best be described as smooth, despite the odd-rhythms. "Só Danço Samba" and "Doralice," the most upbeat numbers on the album, feature Getz' fantastic solos and a quick beat. "Para Machucar Meu Coração" is a tender ballad and the English-language "Corcovado" highlight's Astrud Gilberto's voice.

Of course, the album also has a redo of Jobim's classic "Desafinado." The song is something like a statement of purpose of the bossa nova genre. The song was written as a reaction to critics putting down the genre as off-key and ar rhythmic. The metraphor of a man simply proclaiming his love -- for his lady, for the genre -- is soft and elegant. Like "The Girl from Ipanema," it's one of the classics of bossa nova.


I adore bossa nova. I took a class in college on Brazil and we did a whole week on the genre. The music permeates a lot of 1950s/1960s Brazilian culture, including one of my favorite films, "Orfeu Nefro." I love the Sea and Cake, a band that simply updates bossa nova with a more rock and roll sound.

"Getz/Giberto" is my favorite jazz album, by far. I can listen to it, front to back, any time.

1 comment:

fft said...

Awesome, beautiful record. I'll just requote you:

"Getz/Giberto is my favorite jazz album, by far. I can listen to it, front to back, any time."