Stan Getz and João Gilberto

album cover

A Breeze of Brazil

In the hard-bop middle '50s, the leading saxophonists devoted considerable energy to perfecting an instantly identifiable "sound"—John Coltrane brandished a glinting, metallic sheen, Sonny Rollins a much darker, enveloping mahogany. Stan Getz went in a different direction. His sound was diffuse, distinguished by pillowy puffs of air. Everything he did was dinner-hour smooth, genteel, seemingly designed to not startle anyone.

Yet Getz did startle the jazz world with this recording, a collaborative effort involving some of the leading lights of Brazilian music. In the steady, undulating guitars of the bossa nova beat, Getz found an ideal cradle for his almost meek tone. Jazz Samba, an exploration with guitarist Charlie Byrd recorded in an afternoon in 1962, was a hit, as was the mostly cheesy follow-up, Big Band Bossa Nova. Getz's idea this time was for a more intimate setting built around the bossa supernova, composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, and the form's most skilled interpreter, João Gilberto. At the sessions, Getz asked Gilberto's then-wife Astrud to translate "The Girl from Ipanema" and other songs; although Jobim and Gilberto thought that Astrud was not ready to record, Getz was impressed with her singing, and insisted she be a part of the date. The stars aligned. She remembered later, "After we listened to the finished take, Stan looked at me and said very emphatically, 'That song is gonna make you very famous.' "

Getz was prophetic. "Ipanema" became a worldwide smash, and the rare jazz song to turn up on jukeboxes. The album remains one of the most successful jazz releases of all time. Not coincidentally, it's also one of music's most thoughtful cross-cultural exchanges. João Gilberto sings in a way that defies time. Getz, recognizing the spell could be broken with too many notes, leaves lots of room. With just his lullaby tone, he makes these sweet, sad songs sweeter and sadder.

Genre: Jazz
Released: 1963, Verve
Key Tracks: "The Girl from Ipanema," "Desafinado"
Catalog Choice: Jazz Samba
Next Stop: Toots Thielemans: The Brazil Project, Vol. 2
After That: Wanda Sa: Vagamente

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#1 from John Adcock, Ashtead, United Kingdom - 02/06/2009 3:14

The ultimate in laid back, cool jazz, this album is at once both familiar and new every time you listen to it.  Everything about it works - the choice of songs, the combination of the musicians and most importantly of all I think - the use of space between the notes.  No-one is trying too hard here, and the music is all the more beautiful for that. Getz sounds sublime - capable of great restraint in his playing that perhaps he only re-captured in recordings made just before he died.  Played in bars and restaurants around the world as background music, Getz/Gilberto deserves your attention for the masterpiece it is.

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