Love is eternal for as long as it lasts.
Vinícius de Moraes
This week, we’re highlighting a jazz adjacent music genre, the Bossa nova, which was born in Brazil in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Unlike the samba, a music and dance genre that had become a symbol of Brazil in the early 20th century, the Bossa nova offered a slower tempo and a slightly simplified bass line. Part of the charm and allure of the Bossa nova was because of these slower tempos, paired with seductive melodies and some of the most unique harmonic changes that have ever been created in popular music. For these reasons, as well as its immense and immediate popularity across the globe, the Bossa nova became the music of choice for the Muzak company, piping this genre into shopping centers, dentist offices, and the like. Key figures who helped bring this modern sound to the world included João Gilberto, Antônio Carlos Jobim, and Vinícius de Moraes.
Feel the beat!
Musically, the genre combines vocals that are traditionally accompanied by a classical guitar, which is plucked with fingers rather than a pick, as well as percussion, but variations have occurred. And while earlier Brazilian vocals had an operatic feel, the Bossa nova relies on a more nasal, folk quality.
As for subject matter, the Bossa nova is lyrical, telling stories about love, longing, and nature, and eschews political messaging, unlike the popular music that followed it.
“The Girl From…”
One song that truly sums up the Bossa nova craze, and shows how wide its popularity reached, is “The Girl from Ipanema.” The inspiration of this song lives up to its name, as composer Antônio Carlos Jobim and lyricist Vinícius de Moraes were at a bar when they, indeed, saw the girl who was walking across Ipanema, a posh neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, as she ran her daily errands.
Upon release, the song became a worldwide hit, and its legacy lives on today. It’s believed to be one of the most recorded songs in history, and has been covered by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan (“The Boy from Ipanema”), Kenny G., and more!
While the first commercial recording was by Pery Ribeiro in 1962, the version that became an international hit was performed by Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto, and Stan Getz. Their album Getz/Gilberto was released in 1963, and it introduced the world to the Bossa nova, selling 2 million copies, and also introduced the world to Antônio Carlos Jobim. This recording also helped reinvigorate the career of Getz, during a decade that was difficult for many in the jazz world.
Here’s the Getz/Gilberto version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Because there are so many variations, we’re going to have a little fun with this. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to do a bracket of various versions, so we can see which is the favorite rendition!
Stay tuned for Bossa nova fun!
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This week, we’ll leave you with a fun rendition of “The Girl from Ipanema,” as performed by Petula Clark on The Muppet Show: https://www.youtube.com/