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ARTIST – João Gilberto
ALBUM – João Voz e Violão
YEAR – 2000

To speak of Bossa Nova these days is a redundant effort. Everything that needed to be said has been said. Not being the greatest of connaisseurs of the Brazilian musical movement, I have had the chance to listen to a decent amount of material. Living here, you can’t really get away from it – not that you would, anyway.
This album came at the right time for me. I was just getting back into listening to one of the greatest contributions to brazilian music – Bossa Nova – and was greatly rewarded by this release. It represents, at least to me, the essence of the movement, what it became, and in great part, thanks to Mr. Gilberto himself. The basics, as the record title suggests: voice and guitar. That’s it. That’s all the genius needs. I won’t go into any particulars regarding the history of Bossa Nova, because, like I mentioned previously, I’m not an expert on the subject. Nevertheless, it must be noted that this musical movement began in the early fifties. It was a bit different than what it is now, as it is known now. A good reference may be the album PRINCÍPIOS DA BOSSA, that compiles a lot of good material from Bossa’s roots.
João Gilberto is responsible for bringing the “batida”, or beat, to the guitar. It’s a sort of samba beat, but played on a guitar – yeah, that’s exactly his triumph. His soft, quiet and almost inaudible voice is all part of the style. And on this particular effort I think it stands out the most. He came from Bahia, as one of the tracks on the album declares, to Rio in the 1950s and immediately got involved with the carioca bohemians. Rio de Janeiro was a very different place back then, less populated, still the capital of Brazil, and with a very passionate heart. It was this climate and the bohemian state of mind of its members that brought Bossa Nova to the forefront.
The main artists of the period range from Antonio (Tom) Carlos Jobim to Carlos Lyra, or DIck Farney to Os Cariocas. João Gilberto came and swept these guys away with his guitar playing and his peculiar demeanor. His first hit was “Chega de Saudade”, which, luckily, has no proper translation, not in any language I can think of. The “Missing you Blues” just doesn’t live up to the original title.
When this was released people were readily turned on to the new style of guitar playing. That’s been his main trait ever since, which revolutionised the entire movement. After he introduced himself and his guitar playing Bossa Nova was forever changed. He’s responsible for the sound we now automatically associate to Bossa Nova, the soft singing and the guitar playing as if it carried and imposed the rhythm, which it actually does; no longer is it the drums.
Now, for my favourites, on this record. I want to make it clear that a few of my favourite compositions are not on this album. It is, in fact, a rather commercial album, nonetheless excellent. It’s simplicity is brilliant. Listening closely to the album, start to finish, you feel his mood swings. He appears to transmit joy in some melodies, as in “Da Cor Do Pecado”, and a bit of mellancholy in “Eclipse”, sang in Spanish. All through the album you can almost hear him smile – if that’s possible. It’s a very endearing effort. One of the best from his very large collection of releases.
So, first off, is the leading track, “Desde Que o Samba é Samba”. It was written by Caetano Veloso, and his interpretation is simply beyond anything you can put into words. They are beautiful lyrics, with an even more exquisite reproduction by Gilberto. It’s a perfect start to a nearly perfect album. The next song I thoroughly enjoy as well, “Você Vai Ver”. It’s what we hear in Brazil call “dor de cotovelo”. Better put, it’s a love song, all clichés included. “Desafinado”, the fifth track, is one of my favourite Bossa Nova compositions, of course, composed by Jobim. “…que isto é bossa nova, isto é muito natural…” It talks about the “out of tune” or “desafinado”, somewhat ironically challenging critics of the movement. It’s splendid. He closes off in style, with his trademark and perhaps one of Bossa Nova’s most famous songs “Chega de Saudade”. It’s always great to come back to this album. It’s sad, depressing, reflective, pensive, happy, joyful, mesmerising and overall brilliant. All those emotions in one package. Pretty great.

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