• The Legendary João Gilberto, The Original Bossa Nova Recordings (1958-61)

    March 25, 2008. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive


    In America, this compilation is a rare gem,  a "must-listen-to" from WBGO archives: The Legendary João Gilberto, The Original Bossa Nova Recordings (1958-61).

    It doesn't get much better than this, folks. These are the first studio recordings made by João Gilberto, the living legend on vocals and guitar. This wasn't going to be my first blog entry on bossa nova, which celebrates its 50th Anniversary in less than two weeks, but I couldn't resist. I just discovered this compilation on CD - in beautifully re-mastered pristine fashion - tucked away in WBGO's library. So I feel obliged to share it with the WBGO family and readers of our blog.


    The first sessions from this compilation occurred in July of 1958, when he recorded Chega de Saudade and Bim Bom. I hate making grandiose comparisons between cultures and genres of music, but here are a few for the sake of driving home the importance of this music. This record is like Charlie Parker's Dial and Savoy sessions, or Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, or Miles Davis' album Kind of Blue, or Ornette Coleman's Something Else!!!! This music is completely new, and revolutionary. It documents the first time João Gilberto sang while playing guitar, introducing his bossa nova rhythm to the world.


    Like Louis Armstrong on his cornet, Gilberto revolutionized the way to solo on his instrument. Listen to the way the guitar and vocals relate as a whole: no other guitarist/singer ever sounded like two musicians, singing in one rhythm, and accompanying himself in another. Plus his voice, which is literally pitch-perfect, has no trace of vibrato, a style he mastered after countless, maniacal hours of practice. To top it off, these are some of the first recordings featuring the bossa nova's perfect trinity: Gilberto, composer Antonio Carlos "Tom" Jobim, and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes. In Jobim's words: "João Gilberto appeared as a light, as a big star in the firmament, in the heavens. He became a focus, because he was pulling the guitar in one way and singing the other way, which created the third thing that was profound." Brazilian music would never be the same. - Simon Rentner

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