Stan Getz and João Gilberto featuring Antônio Carlos Jobim - Getz / Gilberto - Review
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critics' view

In November 1962, several important Brazilian musicians, including João Gilberto, Oscar Castro-Neves, Luis Bonfá and Sergio Mendes, came to New York City to play a concert at Carnegie Hall. Although Stan Getz did not play at the concert (and may not have attended), it was the success of his album “Jazz Samba” (co-led with Charlie Byrd) that had buoyed American interest in the bossa nova movement. Many of the Brazilians decided to stay in New York for a few months so they could capitalize on the music’s popularity. Getz’s producer at Verve, Creed Taylor, decided to pair the saxophonist up with several of them to create a collection of bossa nova discs which he could issue over a period of several years.

Recorded in March 1963, “Getz/Gilberto” was a true summit meeting featuring Getz on tenor sax, Antonio Carlos Jobim on piano and João Gilberto on guitar and Portuguese vocals. They were accompanied by two other Brazilians, bassist Sebastião Neto and drummer Milton Banana. Gilberto was a notorious recluse, and Getz’s wife was summoned to retrieve him from his hotel a few blocks away. It might have been during this negotiation that Gilberto’s wife, Astrud, was invited to come along and sing the English lyrics on two of the songs. No matter how she came to be there, Astrud’s timid, breathy vocals was likely the key to the album’s eventual popularity. Without her (or another vocalist), “Getz/Gilberto” would have been a superbly played album of Brazilian music, but Astrud’s unfettered voice brought the tender and melancholy words of “Girl from Ipanema” and “Corcovado” to the American audience. Overall, the album is not very adventurous—neither Jobim nor the Gilbertos were accomplished improvisers, and Getz seems to hold back on every track except “Só Danço Samba”—but the musical chemistry is visceral, from Getz’s delicate obbligatos through João Gilberto’s understated (but highly influential) vocals and guitar, Jobim’s delicate piano solos, and the impeccable groove between Neto and Banana.

Taylor held back the release of “Getz/Gilberto” for nearly a year, by which time the Beatles had taken over the music charts, and bossa nova was literally last year’s fancy. However, the album and its hit single “Ipanema” became huge successes, and netted Grammys for Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Engineered Album (non-classical). The latter award is particularly relevant to Verve’s new reissue, for this album—which always had phenomenal fidelity—sounds better than ever.

Thomas Cunniffe
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