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The complete Joo Gilberto songbook

Ithamara Koorax & Juarez Moreira salute the master in Bim Bom.

Daniella Thompson

31 December 2009

Juarez Moreira, Ithamara Koorax & Arnaldo DeSouteiro

Who in this world owns the most complete collection of Joo Gilberto recordings? My money is on record producer Arnaldo DeSouteiro, who periodically displays in his blog rare items that most JG fans never knew existed.

On 9 November 2009, Arnaldo surprised his readers with the cover of the Japanese DVD Joo Gilberto Live in Tokyo. Now, every Joo head knows that the long-awaited DVD of the 2004 Tokyo concerts was never released, so this is a coveted bootleg edition. Only Arnaldo has ever shown it.

More astonishing still, on 15 October 2009, Arnaldo published an image of the cover of Joo Gilberto—Acesita 50 Anos, recorded live in concert in 1994, when the stainless-steel company (now known as ArcelorMittal Inox Brasil) celebrated its 50-year jubilee. Who knew?

propos of that concert, Arnaldo also pointed me to the 11 Sept. 2008 issue of Gazeta Mercantil, in which Durval Guimares relates that Joo Gilberto arrived three hours late to the 50th-anniversary concert. In order to pass the time until the tardy artist’s arrival, the firm’s president, Wilson Brumer, gave a lecture on metallurgy.

Oh yes. Arnaldo was co-producer with Joo of the CD reissue of Joo Gilberto Prado Pereira de Oliveira.

You get the idea.

So who better than Arnaldo to produce the definitive Joo Gilberto songbook? Definitive, because there have always been questions among the JG faithful about this or that song. “Mambinho,” to name one, has been attributed to Joo Gilberto and Joo Donato, but only Arnaldo was able to verify with the reclusive JG that he had no involvement in the composition of this song.

Joo Gilberto himself has never recorded his complete uvre, confining himself to those tunes he composed without a partner. Other artists have occasionally committed to disc one Gilberto tune or another.

First out the door was Joo’s earliest known published song (he was 22), the samba-cano “Voc Esteve com Meu Bem?” (1953). The crooner was Joo’s girlfriend, Marisa Gata Mansa, making her recording debut on a 78-rpm disc, and the orchestral accompaniment was conducted by the legendary Lindolpho Gaya. Forty-seven years later, Joo himself attempted to sing it at Teatro de Santa Izabel in Recife but quickly gave up, presumably because he couldn’t remember the lyrics.

In 1955, Luiz Bonf and his conjunto, featuring Joo Donato on accordion, were the first to record “Minha Saudade,” still a wordless Donato tune at the time. After JG added lyrics, Alade Costa sang the song in the LP Gosto de Voc (1959).

Also in 1959, after Joo’s recording of “H-B-L-L” had hit the charts, Norma Benguell gave a breathless rendition of it in the LP Ooooooh! Norma, pianist Waldir Calmon recorded it for Copacabana, and bandleader Luiz Arruda Paes with his orchestra and chorus executed it in the LP Brasil em Tempo de Dana. Sylvia Telles—another former JG girlfriend—introduced an English version on Amor em Hi-Fi (1960). The song would subsequently be recorded by artists as diverse as Mel Torm and Sivuca.

In 1962, Stan Getz and Gary McFarland recorded “Bim Bom” in Big Band Bossa Nova. Cannonball Adderly and Tamba Trio rendered jazz interpretations of “Minha Saudade” in the albums Cannonball’s Bossa Nova and Tamba Trio, respectively. Two years later, the star-struck Jorge Ben sang a bombastic and weepy “H-B-L-L” in his second album, Ben Samba Bom (1964).

Wanda S, who enjoyed a North American vogue in the mid-1960s, included the English version of “H-B-L-L” in her album Softly (1965). Bud Shank, Joo Donato, and Rosinha de Valena recorded “Um Abrao no Bonf” and “Minha Saudade” in their album Bud Shank & His Brazilian Friends (1965). Walter Wanderley followed suit in Batucada (1967).

Astrud Gilberto sang “Bim Bom” with big orchestral accompaniment in Look to the Rainbow (1965), and Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66 included a bouncy English version of it in Equinox (1967).

In 1974, having spent time under the tutelage of the Zen-baiano himself, the fusion-rock group Novos Baianos recorded “Isabel” [Bebel] on their eponymous LP.

Caetano Veloso included a medley of “H-B-L-L” and “Bim Bom” in Totalmente Demais (1986) and bravely tackled “Voc Esteve com Meu Bem?” in Fina Estampa ao Vivo (1995).

In 1990, Baden Powell sang “Minha Saudade” in his reedy voice on TV Cultura, and Hendrik Meurkens played the same on the vibes in Sambahia.

Several additional recordings came in the ’90s, including three versions of “Minha Saudade”: Lisa Ono’s in her all-Donato album Minha Saudade (1995); Gilson Peranzzetta Trio in Alegria de Viver(1997); and Gilberto Gil in Lumiar’s Songbook Joo Donato (1999). Also in Songbook Joo Donato, Luiz Melodia contributed his interpretation of “Coisas Distantes.”

Joo Donato has, of course, recorded the songs he co-authored with Joo Gilberto repeatedly.

So here, at last, are the eleven songs that Joo Gilberto composed or co-authored, collected in one CD. The interpreters are Arnaldo DeSouteiro’s (former?) wife, Ithamara Koorax (why give this gem to another singer?) and the mineiro ace guitarist Juarez Moreira.

Koorax has been singing “H-B-L-L” since her first concert in 1990. Moreira, in his turn, regards Joo Gilberto’s music as a challenge: “Although some of the songs may seem very simple, it’s a false impression,” he says. “Gilberto’s songs are very demanding in harmonic terms of guitar playing. They demand a lot of technique. That’s the main ingredient of Gilberto’s magic; to make very difficult and intricate things seem so easy and sound so natural.”

In this “live in the studio” album, the two produce a yin-yang effect. While Ithamara lends the songs a bright, bell-like clarity and at times a girlish reverie, Juarez provides a pure and contemplative link that harks directly back to the composer.

Preview the album.

The model

Ithamara Koorax & Juarez Moreira: Bim Bom—The Complete Joo Gilberto Songbook (Motma Music; 2009) 41:22 min.

01. Bim Bom (Joo Gilberto)
02. H-B-L-L (Joo Gilberto)
03. Coisas Distantes [Forgotten Places] (Joo Gilberto/Joo
      Donato/Lysias nio)
04. Minha Saudade (Joo Donato/Joo Gilberto)
05. Voc Esteve com Meu Bem? (Joo Gilberto/Antnio Cardoso
      Martins, aka “Russo do Pandeiro”)
06. Valsa [Bebel, Como So Lindos os Iogues] (Joo Gilberto)
07. Um Abrao no Bonf (Joo Gilberto)
08. No Coreto [Glass Beads] (Joo Gilberto/Joo Donato)
09. Joo Marcelo (Joo Gilberto)
10. Undi (Joo Gilberto)
11. Acapulco (Joo Gilberto)
      Bonus Track
12. H-B-L-L [English Lyrics] (Joo Gilberto/Aloysio de Oliveira)


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