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.

bossa nova top albums

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SÉRGIO MENDES Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 Album Cover Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66
SÉRGIO MENDES
4.85 | 8 ratings
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STAN GETZ Jazz Samba (with Charlie Byrd) Album Cover Jazz Samba (with Charlie Byrd)
STAN GETZ
4.80 | 6 ratings
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JOÃO GILBERTO Chega de saudade Album Cover Chega de saudade
JOÃO GILBERTO
4.60 | 5 ratings
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ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM Stone Flower (aka Brazil) Album Cover Stone Flower (aka Brazil)
ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM
4.67 | 3 ratings
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STAN GETZ Getz/Gilberto Album Cover Getz/Gilberto
STAN GETZ
4.38 | 17 ratings
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CAETANO VELOSO Caetano Veloso (A Little More Blue) Album Cover Caetano Veloso (A Little More Blue)
CAETANO VELOSO
4.36 | 3 ratings
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ELIS REGINA Falso brilhante Album Cover Falso brilhante
ELIS REGINA
4.17 | 3 ratings
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ELIS REGINA Elis, essa mulher Album Cover Elis, essa mulher
ELIS REGINA
4.00 | 3 ratings
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ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM Wave Album Cover Wave
ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM
3.95 | 13 ratings
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BEBEL GILBERTO Tanto Tempo Album Cover Tanto Tempo
BEBEL GILBERTO
3.95 | 4 ratings
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bossa nova Music Reviews

SARAH MCKENZIE Without You

Album · 2023 · Bossa Nova
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Carmel
Kicking off our review of Sarah McKenzie's "Without You," we're diving into an album that intertwines the diverse styles of vocal Brazilian jazz. With her love for Brazilian music, McKenzie brings us an enchanting setlist as she journeys through Rio de Janeiro, which is filled with encounters with Brazilian music legends.

McKenzie, a pianist and vocalist, anchors this sonic voyage with elegance and precision. Enter Jacques Morelenbaum, whose cello weaves layers of depth with his warm tones, and Romero Lubambo, whose guitar exudes the authentic spirit of Brazil and its romance. The rhythm section, led by the versatile Peter Erskine on drums and Geoff Gascoyne on bass, pulses with vitality, creating a foundation where melodies dance with Brazil's dreamy rhythms. Rogerio Boccato's percussion adds intricate and authentic rhythms—the heartbeat of Brazilian music—while Bob Sheppard's flute and saxophone elevate the compositions with impassioned solos.

At the heart of "Without You" lies McKenzie's homage to Antonio Carlos Jobim's repertoire. "I've always loved the music of Brazil, Tom Jobim, Elis Regina, and of course Astrud Gilberto," says Sarah McKenzie. "What I especially love about Jobim is the simplicity and clarity of his melodies, songs that one can remember and sing." Her renditions of "Gentle Rain" and "Corcovado" pay homage to the rich heritage while showcasing her unique vocal and piano style.

McKenzie's originals—"The Voice of Rio," "Mean What You Say," "Quoi, Quoi, Quoi," and her lyrical addition to Lubambo's "Without You"—reveal her vivid imagination as a composer and lyricist. Rooted in Brazilian rhythms and harmonic patterns, these tracks bear McKenzie's unmistakable signature, offering fresh and innovative contributions to the genre. Each track that features Lubambo exudes an aura of class and romanticism, hallmarks of his masterful playing, but it's McKenzie's unique touch that truly sets these songs apart.

Erskine, Gascoyne, Boccato, and Sheppard bring a level of musicianship that complements McKenzie's vision as synergy and unified purpose shine through. Boccato's percussion and Erskin and Gascoyne provide a vibrant backdrop to McKenzie's lush vocals as she navigates these melodies with an acute focus on Brazilian rhythms and precise accents and articulations. Sheppard's solos, as in "Quoi, Quoi, Quoi," bring a fiery elegance to the project.

McKenzie's melodic approach showcases her musical intelligence. Her ability to phrase melodic lines with clear diction while tapping into the emotional essence of the lyrics allows her to explore new dimensions within the music. Like in "Dindi," "Bonita," and "Fotografia," featuring Morelenbaum's arrangements, she takes us on a journey through the familiar melodies, but with a twist of new phrasing, keeping us engaged and excited.

"Without You" is a heartfelt homage to Brazilian music, where McKenzie honors the giants of the genre while carving out her own unique space within its rich textures. This tribute showcases her deep respect for the music but also connects us, the listeners, to the rich heritage of Brazilian jazz.

WENDY LUCK See You In Rio

Album · 2006 · Bossa Nova
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Matti P
American flautist, vocalist and composer Wendy Luck started her discography in the late 1990's in a meditative New Age direction: The Ancient Key and The Ancient Journey were basically instrumental, flute-centred albums recorded on ancient Egyptian locations -- the Great Pyramid and temples along the Nile. [Another flute-playing New Age artist, Paul Horn, had done the same.]

Already earlier Wendy Luck had sung and played flute in a Latin Jazz ensemble, so it didn't come out of the blue that she would do a more vocal oriented album in the Bossa Nova style. This was done at the suggestion of pianist, arranger and producer Cliff Korman. See You in Rio is a light-hearted, elegant and sensual set of songs, recorded mostly in Rio de Janeiro with Brazilian musicians.

Some tracks were written by Luck and Korman themselves, such as the romantic Bossa songs 'After the Dance' and 'A Man Who Loves'. 'Only Trust Your Heart' (Sammy Cahn) is also arranged into a sensual Bossa Nova ballad. More vivant Brazilian rhythms are heard in the instrumentals 'London Samba' and 'Apanhei-Te, Cavaquinho' (Ernesto Nazareth), both starring flute in the lead.

Not a Bossa Nova album would be credible without some Antonio Carlos Jobim pieces. 'Fotografia' and 'Bonita' are sung in English -- some Portuguese on the album would have added genuine Brazilian flavour, but maybe Wendy Luck didn't feel competent enough with the foreign language. Astor Piazzola's instrumental 'Cafe 1930' is prefaced by Luck's own brief and NewAgey prelude.

The well-known tune from Heitor Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5 is interpreted here as a gentle instrumental for flute and piano, followed by the album-ending joyous song 'Rio After Dark'(David Chesky / Steve Sacks). All in all this is a very well done self-release, easy to enjoy by anyone who likes the sensual approach and Bossa Nova. Wendy Luck is pretty nice both as a flautist and a vocalist, too bad she remains so unknown (at least from the European point of view).

ASTRUD GILBERTO Beach Samba

Album · 1967 · Bossa Nova
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Matti P
The Brazilian singer ASTRUD GILBERTO (March 29, 1940 – June 5, 2023) was a key figure in making the bossa nova music style internationally popular in the mid-sixties. For her the success and fame started almost accidentally as she sang additional vocals on a couple of tracks on the album Getz/Gilberto (1964), a collaboration between American saxophonist Stan Getz and Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto. (The pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim, another key figure of bossa nova, wrote most of the pieces of the album and yet he was only "featuring" on it.) João Gilberto had so lousy English pronunciation that his wife Astrud was invited to sing the English parts on 'Garota de Ipanema/The Girl from Ipanema'. The song became a world-wide hit -- and the rest was history. Astrud had immigrated permanently to USA in 1963. João and Astrud divorced in December 1964.

Beach Samba is her fifth album. All Music Guide considers it more mediocre than for example the preceding album Look to the Rainbow (1966), "primarily due to the more pop-oriented song selection", but it's included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. I'm not going to rank Astrud's albums, I just happened to pick this one as her very first JMA review altogether. The arrangements were done by Eumir Deodato and Don Sebesky, and the album was recorded in summery New York.

There are twelve tracks on this short, roughly 28-minute album. 'Stay' is a forgotten gem with its genuine bossa nova percussion, flute and vibes. Tim Hardin's 'Misty Roses' has a laid back bossa interpretation here. 'The Face I Love' has a charming waltz flavour, but 'A Banda (Parade)' is a downright irritating circus march. The course is safely steered back to bossa nova with Luiz Bonfa's vivant 'Oba Oba' and Deodato's speedy 'Canoeiro'.

Side two starts with a pleasant tune 'I Had a Craziest Dream'. The harpsichord is a nice vintage element. 'Bossa Na Praia (Beach Samba)' may be a bit naiive with its "daabadaa" singing, but I truly enjoy the summer feel. 'My Foolish Heart' represents the great American Songbook while 'Dia das Rosas (I Think of You)' is another nice Bonfa piece, with a bit cheesy arrangement featuring strings. And speaking of cheesiness, The Lovin' Spoonful song 'You Didn't Have to Be So Nice' is nearly irritating as a duet of Astrud and her 6-yr old son, plus Toots Thielemans on harmonica. The final track is another "daabadaa" semi-instrumental, and rather forgettable.

Indeed this album is quite uneven, but for a good deal it is enjoyable for anyone who likes Astrud Gilberto, one of the most charming female voices ever.

JULES DAY Song for Rudy

Single · 2015 · Bossa Nova
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LTalleyFan
A lovely Bossa Nova tune that Jules wrote for her deceased dog "Rudy". She does a great job on the song as always with a beautiful, smooth voice. She's been one of my favorite voices in music since her self-titled debut album came out. I look forward to all her new releases and will continue to do so. I asked her on facebook who her favorite singers were and she told me that she doesn't really listen to a lot of singers, but if she had to pick it would probably be Julie London and Nat "King" Cole. I told her that isn't surprising because her style is a little similar to Julie London's. She took that as a great compliment, but actually, I like Jules Day's voice better than Julie London's. She may never become as famous as Julie London, but I personally prefer her voice over Julie London's. You can hear this song on Spotify or YouTube if you are interested. I wish the lyrics didn't mention Jack Kerouac, but other than that I enjoy the song.

STAN GETZ Getz/Gilberto

Album · 1964 · Bossa Nova
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liontime
Girl from Ipanema often defines this record for many due to the song's outrageous popularity; however, the seven other songs on this record aren't just filler to try and sell a single as an LP. This album is an excellent blend of jazz and pop.

To me, this is Getz's pinnacle. There are no other recordings where Getz is as sincere, sweet or warm. Joao Gilberto backs Getz wonderfully and takes the spotlight on many occasions, singing even at times. Both sides of the record start with a jazz/pop song featuring Astrud Gilberto whose enthralling voice irresistibly draws one into warm summer nights past.

There's nothing technically ground breaking or particularly imaginative about this album but if that's your qualm, you're missing the point. It's one of the most inviting and captivating records ever made. Put this on anywhere, anytime and drift away.

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