Bossa Nova

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Although it had been developing throughout the 50s, Bossa Nova became popular in the early 60s as a more mellow alternative to the aggressive urban sounds of hard bop and the avant-garde. Bossa Nova was a Brazilian concoction that combined simplified and slowed down samba rhythms, relaxed cool jazz sensibilities and modern European impressionistic harmonies into a music that was pleasing, but hardly simplistic. The pulsing relaxed rhythm, marked with hypnotic accents, that defines Bossa Nova can be heard in the songs and guitar rhythms of Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

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Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 60 min. caching

4.76 | 12 ratings
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STAN GETZ Jazz Samba (with Charlie Byrd) Album Cover Jazz Samba (with Charlie Byrd)
4.85 | 4 ratings
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SÉRGIO MENDES Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 Album Cover Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66
4.73 | 3 ratings
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STAN GETZ Getz/Gilberto Album Cover Getz/Gilberto
4.46 | 9 ratings
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SONNY ROLLINS What's New? (aka Pure Gold Jazz) Album Cover What's New? (aka Pure Gold Jazz)
4.46 | 8 ratings
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JOÃO GILBERTO João Gilberto Album Cover João Gilberto
4.50 | 2 ratings
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JOÃO GILBERTO Chega de saudade Album Cover Chega de saudade
4.33 | 3 ratings
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JOÃO GILBERTO O Amor, O Sorriso E A Flor Album Cover O Amor, O Sorriso E A Flor
4.25 | 2 ratings
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ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM Stone Flower (aka Brazil) Album Cover Stone Flower (aka Brazil)
4.05 | 2 ratings
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ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM The Composer of The Composer of "Desafinado", Plays (aka Antonio Carlos Jobim)
3.98 | 4 ratings
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BUARQUE CHICO Chico Buarque de Hollanda, Volume 2 Album Cover Chico Buarque de Hollanda, Volume 2
4.00 | 2 ratings
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STAN GETZ Big Band Bossa Nova

Album · 1962 · Bossa Nova
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It appears that Stan Getz quickly followed his Jazz Samba album with Charlie Byrd with another bossa nova one later in the year of 1962. Being a collaboration between Stan Getz and Gary McFarland, this album features Stan Getz at the forefront of a big band that was arranged and conducted by Gary McFarland.

I approached this album with eager expectations of hearing Stan Getz's follow up to the Jazz Samba masterwork. But as I continued to return to this album expecting for it to grow on me, I became slowly more and more disappointed that it wasn't as much as I hoped. Instead, I was becoming bored with it.

Not to say the music is altogether bad. At times the arrangements sound pretty good, exploring different textures and featuring solos by the guitar player and the piano player at times. But if I were to compare this to other bossa nova albums, I'd say it lacks the cool authenticity that I've heard when listening to good bossa nova. If I were to compare this with other big band albums, I would say the arrangements lack ideas. In the end, I personally find it a little boring.


SONNY ROLLINS What's New? (aka Pure Gold Jazz)

Album · 1962 · Bossa Nova
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What's new with Sonny Rollins? Apparently bossa nova. It was certainly the new thing back in '62, and Rollins decided to have a shot at it.

This album is a unique find. Being possibly Sonny Rollins' only bossa nova album in its entirety, here he experiments with new sounds and colors. You can tell when listening that Sonny Rollins does everything except approach the bossa nova style carefully. At times his improvisations become playfully outlandish, especially on tracks like "Jungoso" or "Bluesongo" when the space is very free and open. In other moments, he even disregards the feel and swings his eighth notes.

The album begins with a 12 minute bossa nova jam titled "If Ever I Would Leave You". Establishing a clear bossa nova feel, this track is one of the more "down-to-earth" tracks on this album where Rollins solos with melodic licks and doesn't make sounds as strange as the tracks that follow.

"Jungoso" begins with a percussionist playing on a drum with his hands. Rollins freely and tonally improvises over this, even by putting growl into his sound and bending notes. He continues this when the bass player comes in with a repetitive, modal groove that establishes the background. The effect sounds pretty good, but can be slightly unsettling when he gets a little too carried away with his growl sounds.

The next track, "Bluesongo" is similar to the previous track but has a walking bass line that gives it a touch of blues and swung eighths.

"The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" is similar to the first track of the album, in which the guitar and drum set establish a bossa nova feel and Rollins avoids growling.

The last track, "Brown Skin Gal", actually features a group of people singing the melody. The feel made by the percussion creates more of a calypso or caribbean feel.

In its entirety, this album isn't completely bossa nova, despite what it says on the cover. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th tracks seem to lend themselves slightly more to other South American sub-genres rather than bossa nova. Of the tracks that are bossa nova, Sonny Rollins doesn't have a tone that meshes well with the cool, laid-back feel. Instead, his tone comes across more as fat and aggressive here than is necessary.

Despite this, this album creates a sound of its own that is worth looking into for either Sonny Rollins or latin/bossa nova listeners. For that I give it 7/10.

STAN GETZ Jazz Samba (with Charlie Byrd)

Live album · 1962 · Bossa Nova
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The bossa nova sensation that's sweeping the nation...

The year is 1962. The Beatles have not yet released their first album, hard bop and cool jazz are in full bloom, and Antonio Carlos Jobim has been composing bossa nova in Brazil since the late 50's.

This Brazilian genre would be introduced by Stan Getz to America through this album, in which Antonio Carlos Jobim's compositions "Desafinado" and "Samba de Uma Nota So" would become hits and end up in today's sixth edition of the Real Book. This album would then make it to no. 1 on the billboard charts in 1963 and Stan Getz would win a grammy for his performance on "Desafinado". More musicians would follow in the wake of this album to write their own bossa nova music.

Although I am not completely sure of this, I believe that the latin "tresillo" rhythm used in bossa nova during this era inspired rock and roll artists to start using it to the point where it has almost become a rhythmic cliche in modern rock as well as movie scores.

Enough of the history, is it a good album? Yes.

Not only is the cool bossa mood of the album relaxing and easy to hear for mainstream ears, but Stan Getz's solos are creative and full of soul. Since his tone is so soft the cool mood of the album is never disrupted by aggressive sixteenth note licks or loud, passionate high notes, which appear from time to time. Charlie Byrd's solos are creative as well. In his solos you will hear him utilizing bluesy licks, broken chords, and chord melodies in ways that may seem to have impressionistic inspiration.

Not only is the music good, but the album artwork looks cool as well.


Album · 2000 · Bossa Nova
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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.

SÉRGIO MENDES Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 : Stillness

Album · 1970 · Bossa Nova
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In the wide open decade of the 60s when all restrictions on what popular music should sound like came tumbling down like the walls of Jericho any enterprising musician that had a novel or exotic slant to offer was given fair consideration by the public. In North America anything that sported a rhythm imported from regions south of the border was especially welcome and artists like Sergio Mendes from Brazil were quick to seize upon that opportunity while the door leading to mass acceptance was standing open. Mentored in his home country during the early stages of his career by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Sergio was invited to play keyboards on recordings by the likes of Herbie Mann and Cannonball Adderley before he made the bold move and relocated to the U.S. in 1964. Soon after that he formed his own combo, wisely put two pretty female singers out in front and began to find success by producing Bossa Nova versions of well-known hit singles. Their sexy rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “The Look of Love” rose to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and their imaginative take on the Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill” topped out at #6, making Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66 a hot commodity on the airwaves and a regular act on every variety television show of that era. But, after a few years, the fickle populace eventually lost interest in their unwavering shtick as the 70s loomed dead ahead and “Stillness” turned out to be the last album they would record under that self-dating moniker.

The disc opens with a mysterious atmosphere that leads to the title song, a sort of airy, floating combination of folk and jazz. Lani Hall’s voice is enticing due to her delicate tone and silky smoothness but the tune itself is rather weak and pretentious. “Righteous Life” is next and it’s a soft rock number that’s quite pedestrian and the group’s overall performance on the track is rather uninspired. There’s only so much they could do with two chords, though, so I won’t be too rough on them. They attach an up-tempo Latin beat to Joni Mitchell’s perky “Chelsea Morning” and it keeps it from sounding like just another sped-up folk ditty. Unfortunately, Lani and her compatriot Karen Philipp approach it as if they were doing standard studio work for union scale wages and it comes off lacking any amount of sincerity. “Cancao Do Nosso Amor (Far Away Today)” is a lush Brazilian ballad in which Mendes warbles the lyrics softly in his native tongue. It’s nicely done but it only makes me nod off. The first song that comes down the pike with anything resembling spirit is the instrumental “Viramundo.” The energetic drum and percussion track is uplifting and takes you on a fun ride. Lani and Karen’s unison vocals also go a long way in stimulating the otherwise repetitive chord progression.

“Lost in Paradise” is another fluffy pop/rock ditty possessing a South American jazz flavor but the only use I can think of for the cut is in the role of barely-audible dinner music. The principal reason for my purchasing this round slab of black vinyl in the first place follows, their cover of Stephen Still’s “For What It’s Worth.” I must have heard it on the radio because none of my musically hip friends would’ve recommended a record by this bunch if they were in their usual snobbish frame of mind. Yet even today it remains one of the more interesting versions of this iconic tune you’ll ever chance to hear. It’s a case of the ensemble’s eclectic instrumentation and foreign point of view adding a cool vibe to its very simple but catchy melody line. (I’m willing to bet that Mr. Stills likes it a lot.) “Sometimes in Winter” is an overly sappy ballad that, to the band’s credit, contains a few mild surprises in the arrangement but not enough to make it stand out. “Celebration of the Sunrise” is an engaging Brazilian jazz instrumental that has a lot of potential but, at only 1:45 in duration, it doesn’t last long enough to matter much. The album ends with a short, bookend reprise of “Stillness” that is entirely too predictable and old hat to be effective.

Despite repeated attempts at making magic happen again with many different chart-topping songs (“Scarborough Fair” and “Wichita Lineman” are good examples), their routine of injecting a Bossa Nova attitude into instantly-recognizable hits finally went stale and out of style and Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66 were out of business as the 70s started up. In retrospect they played a significant role in the ascendancy of the genre called light jazz and AOR programming in general and Sergio went on to build a respectable career for himself as one of the most popular Brazilian artists to ever migrate north of the equator. I admire anyone who achieves his goals and realizes his dreams as Mendes did but if you’re looking for exciting Latin jazz or hot Bossa Nova to sink your teeth into this isn’t necessarily where you want to look.

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