There are only few times in modern music when several elements all come together and create something of great initial impact and with lasting influence. In 1964 when Getz/Gilberto was released this rare feat was achieved. In this context the album can be regarded as one of great historic importance. However this album is much more than a golden artifact. It was and still is a remarkable work of art as well.
The personnel behind the album was first rate. Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim were not only excellent bossa nova musicians but were also two of the most central figures to the birth of the music. Who better to serve as ambassadors for the music? Ironically, next to them was a young lady that prior to the release of this album had never done a professional recording. Her name was Astrud Gilberto and she too would go on to become a legend.
Stan Getz was not only one of the best tenor saxophonists in American jazz at the time but alongside the famed producer Creed Taylor, was critical in bringing bossa nova to the united states. Both contributed to this album in their aforementioned roles. To complete the impressive roster was the most inventive drummer in bossa nova, responsible for many of the percussive innovations of the genre, Milton Banana.
The timing of the album was also just right. In 1964 bossa nova was already becoming a popular form of music. However, it was more an exotic import than an established homestead. Without a release of widespread significant it could have becoming a passing interest; a fad. With the release and subsequent commercial success and universal acclaim that the album received bossa nova was solidified as a serious entity in the world of music outside of Brazil. It still stands as one of the best-selling jazz albums and is one of only two such albums to win a Grammy for album of the year. Additionally it won Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Best Engineered Album and featured the Record of the Year.
The music itself does not disappoint. The biggest hit on the album, “The Girl from Ipanema” is an example of how all these musicians came together so well. The irresistible melody was composed by Jobim. Its calm and alluring sound captivated generations and had been featured on albums before and after this release. However, this version remains the essential one because it is the most fluent and universal in its expression. Joao Gilberto sings in his characteristic style of restraint, which is paralleled by his guitar playing on the track. His understated style is followed by Astrud Gilberto who sounds younger and far more innocent. One really does get the impression that this may have been her first recording. These styles contrast each other well not only because they are sonically different but also because the first is done in Portuguese and the latter in English. Finally, Stan Getz performs his solo which is just as skillful and lyrical as any work he ever put out.
The song sets the standard for the rest of the album and it’s a standard that is met again and again. No song disappoints and there are a number of highlights. Getz’s solos bring life to many of these songs that would become standards such as Desafinado. Corcovado features an icy cold vocal performance from Astrud Gilberto and an intricate, albeit brief, solo from Antonio Carlos Jobim. “ O grande amor” is another track where all the elements come together well with each musician coming together to make a track that is strikingly elegant and seductive in an subtle tone almost unassuming way. The consistency of the album is not only due to the musicians though, as Creed Taylor’s finds a way to include so much talent in a 40 minute stretch of music without ever losing cohesion or having anything or anyone sound of out place.
A lot has been written and said about this album and deservedly so. It manages to get so much right and is the closest thing to perfection that has been achieved in this form of music. Creativity, technical competence and sound engineering all came together to produce an album that elevated careers and changed the face of music and culture in the United States and beyond. This is where any first time bossa nova listener should begin and where any seasoned patron should end. It is the definitive bossa nova album.
Released: March 1964
Recorded: March 18–19, 1963
Genre: Jazz, Bossa Nova
Length: 34:02 original LP
1. “The Girl from Ipanema” Antônio Carlos Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, Norman Gimbel
2. “Doralice” Dorival Caymmi, Antonio Almeida
3. “P’ra Machucar Meu Coração” Ary Barroso
4. “Desafinado” Jobim, Newton Mendonça
5. “Corcovado” Jobim, Gene Lees
6. “Só Danço Samba” Jobim, de Moraes
7. “O Grande Amor” Jobim, de Moraes
8. “Vivo Sonhando” Jobim
9. “The Girl from Ipanema” [45 rpm issue] Jobim, de Moraes, Gimbel
10. “Corcovado” [45 rpm issue] Jobim, Lees