It’s time to come clean about a little secret obsession of mine. I love Bossa Nova! If you haven’t discovered Bossa Nova or Samba music yet, now’s the time. I guess there’s no better song to introduce you to the genre than “The Girl From Ipanema.” Well there are better songs but this is a starting place and by no means represents the entire sound of Bossa Nova.
The Girl From Ipanema: (Released on Getz/Gilberto in 1964 on Verve Records)
This is the hit that propelled the music onto the world scene. Sadly though like all good things, the song along with the genre was exploited ad nauseam by just about every American Jazz artist in the 60’s and well into the 70’s. Though the genre died out in the 60’s, the 3 decades to follow butchered the great sound that came out of 1960’s Brazil. When you hear some of the music and songs like “Ipanema,” most people automatically label it as “Elevator Music.” You know that soft jazzy music you hear when you step into some elevators? Bossa Nova was also played in every hip jazz lounge/bar so it was also called “Lounge music.” The Bossa Nova I remember from my childhood was only played in elevators and department stores and sounded something like this:
Cheesy Lounge Song:
I first discovered it when I was a kid. We used to have this 80’s organ that had Bossa Nova beats on it. You could find these organ stores in just about every big shopping mall then. By the time it reached my ears though, it was watered down from 3 decades of abuse. We eventually got rid of our organ and that’s when my faint knowledge of the music disappeared. I rediscovered it about 10 years ago and a few years ago, I got my hands on just about every piece I could find!! I even dropped about 50 bucks on original LP’s of some of the greatest albums from the 60’s and early 70’s.
Bossa Nova is basically a fusing of Brazillian Samba music (though less percussive) and American Jazz. The best way to describe it is it’s as cool and timeless as jazz but perhaps a tad more sophisticated and not as stuffy…well sometimes. The sound varies much but through and through has the ability to keep you hooked. Its very romantic in its sometimes mysterious appeal. The genre was copied by thousands of artists but it can be said that it was pioneered and largely developed by just a few guys, João Gilberto, Vinicius de Moraes, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, who according to Wikipedia, is “acknowledged as one of the most influential popular composers of the 20th century.”
This brings me to my favorite album of his which is “Getz/Gilberto.” Jobim penned many of the songs on that album which ended up becoming one of the best selling Jazz albums of all time.
The song below is called “Corcovado,” and is one of my favorite songs of all time. It has the most beautiful ache and melancholy I’ve ever heard in music and I could not describe it any better way. Joao Gilberto’s vocals are a perfect fit for this song and is pure velvet-sweetness! The sax lead of Stan Getz at: 1:53 gets me every time. It has to be the most poignant sax lead I’ve ever heard and furthermore, the subtle piano lead that follows at: 2:57 convinces me that there was never a more beautiful song made of this nature, ever. The piano lead woos you in a most subtle way as if Jobim is carefully taking us by the hand through this piece. I rewound this part a few times when I first heard it because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I know, it might be OCD. These two leads play out for about 1 minute and 24 seconds which is very long for any lead but by the time they end, you wish they wouldn’t. Who writes like this anymore? I know lots of music and this most certainly is a gem. Bossa Nova has seen new life in recent years by Brazillian artists but isn’t quite like the original. Anyway, listen and enjoy!
Corcovado (Released on Getz/Gilberto in 1964 on Verve Records):