BEBEL GILBERTO — Tanto Tempo (review)

BEBEL GILBERTO — Tanto Tempo album cover Album · 2000 · Bossa Nova Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
The best things in life are free. (Relative to the price of a Mercedes, anyway.) I’ve lived long enough to know that ancient statement’s not just an empty quip to spew out like cheap gum. One of the most rewarding things in my life has been found in exploring the innumerable caves and tunnels that line the walls inside the vast world of music. The advances made in sound delivery mechanisms via PCs in the last half century has made this activity easier than ever (as opposed to the “old days” when one had to go out of one’s way to visit a record store to browse through and procure ear-opening aural art, a practice that wasn’t without its own merits and particular charms). I love to hear stuff that’s new to me and there are few things as satisfying as finding an artist/band that sings to my soul in unexpected ways. And the genre of jazz, with all its fascinating nooks and crannies, offers more of those opportunities than most. That’s why sites such as this are so valuable in pursuing that hobby. Case in point: I read fellow reviewer Matt’s enthusiastic assessment of this album by Bebel Gilberto and it prompted me to look into her music even though I know very little about South American fare and even less about Bossa Nova in general. The risks involved in peeking into foreign styles are minimal if you respect the opinions of the essayist who steered you in that direction. If it turns out not to be your idea of a good time then at worst you’re out a dozen bucks and less than an hour of your life. The upside is massive, however, because often you’ll uncover something you most likely would’ve never found on your own. That was my experience with “Tanto Tempo.”

A more detailed look into the life journey of the lovely Bebel can be found in her JMA bio or in the aforementioned review but I’ll give you a thumbnail version just to acquaint you with her history. Born in New York City to a family of musicians and singers, she was raised in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil where she honed her craft from childhood and gained some notoriety as a budding star. But by the time she hit her mid-20s she realized there was a sprawling planet outside her country’s borders chock full of different influences and ideas just waiting to be integrated into her music so she first moved to the metropolis of her birth and then to London, where this disc was recorded. Therefore the mix of Portuguese and English lyrics as well as the blending of North American and European mindsets into the tracks makes for eleven songs that are anything but traditional or stuffy Latino fare. (FYI, the track order is slightly different on the CD I have than what's listed above.)

She begins her official debut with “August Day Song,” a number that has a strong, flowing groove distinguished by the smooth tightness between the acoustic guitar and the drums that pulls you right in. The first thing that struck me was the similarity of Gilberto’s voice to that of another favorite female singer of mine, Sade. While their motifs are continents apart, they both share the rare ability to conjure hypnotic spells with their vocals. The tune’s authentic and sometimes eerie Brazilian percussion adds mystery to the track. “Tanto Tempo” is next and its sultry Bossa Nova beat is as relaxing as a beach hammock swaying in a cool ocean breeze. There’s an interesting pause in the arrangement where Bebel carries the rhythm solely with her voice and it makes for a classy moment. "San Contencao" sports a perky bounce that invites you to taste Gilberto's rapid-fire phrasing. “Mais Feliz” follows with an extremely romantic atmosphere surrounding the number like a warm fog. Kudos go out to the engineering crew for capturing the essence of the varied instruments involved and the depth of Gilberto’s soft, expressive vocal. This record sounds fantastic. On "Alguem" some quasi-hip hop drums rumble along with imaginative percussion accents, throwing a curve into the established current of the album. A sexy pulse propels the love song “So Nice (Summer Samba)” effortlessly. While I find the tune to be a little too predictable I also acknowledge that it’s sometimes smart to not step too far out of character when dealing with this category of music so it’s not a deal-killer.

“Lonely” is the most eclectic number on the album. Peppy percussion, tinkling ivories and multi-layered voices make this a too-short but invigorating detour from the norm. “Bananaeira” possesses a touch of funk that drives this song aggressively and the full horn section that backs Bebel adds a delicious big band flavor to the proceedings. Here Gilberto adopts an edgier tone, proving she’s no one-trick pony. “Samba E Amor” is a pretty ballad featuring Bebel’s up-close and personal singing methodology with only some silky Spanish guitar for accompaniment. No amateur she, Gilberto handles the tune’s intricate and tricky vocal lines flawlessly. A disarming introduction for “Close Your Eyes” leads to a track with a dance-inducing, percussion-heavy undertow that’ll set your toes to tapping. Exciting horns punctuate the number’s festive aura, especially the rowdy coronet. She ends with “Samba da Bencao.” There’s a mesmerizing landscape stretching out to the horizon behind this engaging song, aided by a saxophone drenched in echo that drifts about, painting the tune in a dreamy hue.

I’m so glad I found this album and to that I’ll add that it’s about time. (It has sold well over a million units worldwide.) There are certain moods and situations that are perfect for this kind of sophisticated music to accentuate to the utmost. It can also gently take you off the crowded, beaten path when such a detour is necessary to maintain one’s sanity. If you find the offerings of Sade interesting and inspiring then you’ll be happy to know that Bebel Gilberto and her splendid musicians’ performances on “Tanto Tempo” are every bit as gratifying as what you enjoy hearing from that intoxicating lady and her ensemble.
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Matt wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Great stuff and review. Sunshine is instant, sitting under a palm tree because that is where the album takes me.


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