João Gilberto Biography

10 June 1931, Juazeiro, Brazil. The Gilberto name is utterly synonymous with bossa nova: the light, melodic, samba-based musical hybrid that swept America and the rest of the world in the mid-60s. Guitarist/vocalist/composer João Gilberto grew up interested in Brazilian samba, absorbing the traditional rhythms and melodies, but became seduced by jazz - the other ingredient in the bossa recipe - listening to radio stations playing American music. During the early 50s he settled in Rio De Janeiro, where the colourful cultural mix was already inspiring the brilliant guitarist/composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, with whom he soon began to collaborate. Recording toward the end of the decade, Gilberto’s tune ‘Bim Bom’ met with considerable success, and the pair established the bossa nova sound locally; but it was not until American guitarist Charlie Byrd picked up on the craze and, with soft-toned saxophone genius Stan Getz, brought it to the USA, that the bossa nova era and Gilberto’s stardom really began. Getz and Byrd’s Jazz Samba, recorded in 1962, featured compositions by both Jobim and Gilberto, and put bossa nova squarely on the map; but it was the 1963 classic, Getz/Gilberto, that made the Gilberto name. The album featured both Jobim and Gilberto, and gave a receptive American audience the first taste of João’s sophisticated, romantic whisper, Portuguese lyrics and mellow guitar accompaniment. The surprise hit came courtesy of João’s first wife Astrud Gilberto, singing the now ubiquitous ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ - soon a feature of every American jukebox.

The bossa nova as popular American music was just a craze, but the delicate and sophisticated sound that was João Gilberto’s has been absorbed into the jazz mainstream, along with a number of his and Jobim’s much-loved compositions. Recommended listening from the 60s must include the original Getz/Gilberto album, and a live date from Carnegie Hall, recorded toward the end of 1964 when the music was at its peak of popularity. Issued as Getz/Gilberto 2, the album includes a series of performances by Getz with his own quartet featuring vibraphonist Gary Burton, some mellow, quiet tracks by Gilberto’s trio, and a series of performances featuring everyone together, and Astrud Gilberto making a guest appearance to sing, among other things, the hit record of the year, ‘The Girl From Ipanema’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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