Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Two-Fer-Tuesday: Stan Getz, Boss of Bossa Nova

I feel bad about last week's Two-Fer-Tuesday: All those folks googling "Stan Getz" and instead of getting a few of his classic songs, they heard his renderings (admittedly noteworthy) of Billy Joel and Huey Lewis tunes.

So I'm trying to make amends by returning to "The Sound" and spotlighting his Bossa Nova output. The twist is that I'm not going to be focusing on all his 60's Verve albums that brought him widespread acclaim and popularity.

Instead, I want to concentrate on one of his sadly overlooked contributions to his Brazilian music catalogue.

There are several reasons why The Best of Two Worlds (1975) never took off or was accepted as part of an amazing body of work that included Getz/Gilberto (1964), Jazz Samba (1962) and Stan Getz With Guest Artist Laurindo Almeida (1963). One was that though extraordinarily productive in terms of churning out albums during that era, Getz was involved in a nasty divorce. And he and João Gilberto weren't exactly the greatest of friends. Producer Joe Boyd, in his recent autobiography White Bicycles (2006) talks about Getz having an affair with Astrud Gilberto during the success of "The Girl from Ipanema," something that apparently was a factor in the pair's eventual divorce.

By the way, that's not Astrud leaning on Getz' shoulder on the album cover. That's Heloísa Maria Buarque de Hollanda, Gilberto's second wife. A Brazilian pop star in her own right known as Miucha, she is also the sister of the legendary Chico Buarque – and the mother of the bliss pop singer who would become Bebel Gilberto.

Back to the album, however. Though some feel that with all the turmoil in his life, Getz' playing is just not up to par compared to the Verve Bossa Nova albums, I beg to disagree. To my ears, "The Sound" has not deteriorated at all. His sax playing, sensuous and full-bodied, is just right for the material.

And what material it is. Which is the second and most important to love this album. Because it is the only place to hear Getz and Gilberto combine on two of my favorite Antonio Carlos Jobim songs: "Aguas de Março (Waters of March)" and "Double Rainbow."

In a 2001 poll of 200 Brazilian music journalists, "Aguas de Março" was voted the most beautiful Brazilian song of all time – perhaps not just for the 1972 composition's melodic twists and turns, but for the exquisite poetry of its lyrics. In a change for him, Jobim wrote both the English and Portuguese lyrics which focus on presenting images rather than telling a story.

Play "Aguas de Março" by Stan Getz and João Gilberto

"Double Rainbow" (Known in Portuguese as "Chovendo Na Roseira," which translates to "Raining in the Garden") was originally titled "Children's Games" when Jobim recorded it himself as an instrumental in 1971. Jobim renamed it when Jobim added lyrics (Gene Lees was the English lyricist this time). This is another gorgeous song that shows why Jobim rightfully can be called the Gershwin of Brazil.

Play "Double Rainbow" by Stan Getz and João Gilberto

There are a few other reasons to love this collection: A jaunty version of "Just One of These Things;" Gilberto's solo take on the heartbreaking "É Preciso Perdoar;" and the point-counterpoint of "Izaura," which showcases Miucha and Gilberto harmonizing.

To be sure, Miucha is not as sensual singer as Astrud. And she has gotten criticized for sounding too American on this album. But really, her performances suit the top-notch material contained on this CD. Do yourself a favor and add it to your CD collection or iPod. You won't be sorry.

As a bonus (and because I just adore this song), I've placed a YouTube video of Jobim's 1974 performance with Brazil's equivalent of Billie Holiday, the tragic Elis Regina. Despite Regina's laughing at the end, it is considered by many to be the definitive version of the song.

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