March 18, 1983
Albums that please the purist elite are rarely commercially successful and vise versa. In jazz, Kenny G is a paradigm of this idea, having sold 48 million albums in the U.S., while Pat Metheny memorably described his music as having created a “new low point in modern culture.” One notable exception was the release of Head Hunters by Herbie Hancock in 1973, which was the first jazz album to go Platinum while receiving universal acclaim though an esoteric group of critics still described it as the beginning of the end of jazz. The meeting of guitarist/singer João Gilberto and composer/pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim with Stan Getz in New York birthed a record that is one of very few records in the latin jazz genre to cross the aforementioned divide—possibly further than even Head Hunters.
To be able to elucidate the subjectivity of consciousness in such a way that it can be universally understood is part of the intentional thinking of any great artist. “The Girl from Ipanema,” composed by Jobim, is now a classic because of the universalism expressed through its graceful romanticism and especially the personality in the vivacious voice of Astrud Gilberto—who had never recorded outside of her house before this album. The songs simple imagery transports you to Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro and illuminates the scene of the girl who strolls by the café when “each day she walks to the sea.” This classic singlehandedly led to bossa nova and samba flooding the jazz market place in the U.S. at the time of its release and had a lasting impact on the genre. The album was the one of two jazz albums to win the award of record of the year in 1965—the second was Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters 43 year later.
Stan Getz and João Gilberto ft. Astrud Gilberto – “Girl From Ipanema”
“Corcovado,” featuring Astrud, also became a standard of the genre because of the balance between Getz lyrical spiritedness and Gilberto’s harmonic sophistication. For an American audience, the album again transports the listener to Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro looks out her window at the “quiet streams.”
Stan Getz and João Gilberto ft. Astrud Gilberto – “Corcovado”
Stan Getz and João Gilberto ft. Astrud Gilberto – “Desafinado”
The style exuding from songs like “O Grande Amor” and “Sl Danco Samba” is ultimately meditative in its bossa nova elements in the way that it places the careful listener in a new frame of reference. When listening to this album it is self-evident why this record has reached the stature that it has in terms of jazz-bossa nova cross overs because of its striking intimacy and ability to portray the subjective on a universal scale. This album is essential for the collection of all jazzheads.
Words by Liam Bird