The pleasure of hearing him again
Joćo Gilberto sings the same songs,
Daniella Thompson6 October 2002
Teatro Morlacchi in Perugia
(note Brazilian flag on 3rd box tier)
When a Brazilian asks me how I became interested in Brazilian music, I always say, through Joćo Gilberto. A genius of popular song and quite possibly Brazils greatest gift to the world, Joćo was also my teacher. Would I have ever heard of Ary Barroso, Dorival Caymmi, or Noel Rosa were it not for Joćo? Most likely not.
For more years than I care to count, Joćo was a seductive voice in the background of my musical world. It wasnt until the late 80s, with the entrance of CDs into my home, that I set out to obtain every album he had released. It wasnt difficult, as Joćos output had never been amplehis entire official production between 1959 and 2000 amounts to a mere fourteen and a half albums (the half is Getz/Gilberto vol. 2).
Ever since he began marking the 40th anniversary of Bossa Nova, Joćo has been accused of recording the same songs over and over again. How true is this assessment? His signature tune, Chega de Saudade, received four recordings over the past four decades, as did Rosa Morena and O Pato; Meditaēćo and Corcovado were recorded three times each; Garota de Ipanema, twice. Not an unreasonable situation for an artist who obsessively continues to delve into his classic repertoire, extracting a myriad interpretations from the same well-selected songs over a lifelong career. Among all the songs associated with Joćo, Desafinado is the one most oft repeated, with six recordings until this year.
The count for the above songs has just gone up a notch, for they all appear in Live at Umbria Jazz, recorded in 1996 but released this year. In the tribe of Joćos fans, I belong to the sect that awaits his next album hoping for new songsnot brand-new songs, of course, but songs Joćo has never recorded. I might as well tell you right now that there are none of those on Live at Umbria Jazz. Does it matter? Not really.
Joćo Gilberto on stage at the sold-out Teatro Morlacchi is at his seductive best, which doesnt necessarily mean hes whispering. For the appreciative European audience, the singer was more than willing to exercise his vocal chords, express a wide range of emotions, and even produce the occasional vibrato, a taboo for most of his career. Moreover, CD listeners who were forced to crank up the volume in order to hear Joćo Voz e Violćo (2000) will be glad to know that both voice and guitar are captured with excellent clarity on Live at Umbria Jazz.
All the songs on the disc were composed between 1942 and 1963. These 21 years cover Joćos formative period, from his childhood in Juazeiro to the early years of his solo career. Eight of the fourteen songs were written by Dorival Caymmi or Tom Jobim, all within a narrow period in each composers career. Caymmi is represented with Rosa Morena (1942), Doralice (1945), Lį Vem a Baiana (1947), and Saudade da Bahia (1957); Jobim with Chega de Saudade (1958), Desafinado (1959), Corcovado (1960), and Garota de Ipanema (1962). The four Caymmi songs had been hits before Joćo recorded themthree were released while he was in his teens. The Jobim songs, on the other hand, were all launched by Joćo himself.
So whats different here?
Joćo opens with Isto Aqui o Que É?, a 1942 Ary Barroso samba he recorded twice beforethe first time in 1985 at the Montreux Jazz Festival. In Montreux he sang it from the beginning (Isso aqui o que é?/ É um pouquinho de Brasil, Iaiį), while here he starts with the refrain (Olha o jeito nas cadeiras que ela sabe dar). The new interpretation is more intimate and direct, as if tenderly courting the morena while watching her dance.
De Conversa em Conversa (1947) was previously recorded by Joćo in 1970, while he was living in Mexico. The Umbria interpretation is looser, more casual and more inflected. Pra Que Discutir com Madame? sounds like a samba that would have been made popular by the vocal groups of the 1940s, but in fact, neither of the two previous recordings (Janet de Almeidas in 1945 and Valter Damascenos in 1956) garnered the slightest success. The samba didnt become well known until Joćo recorded it in the 1985 Montreux Jazz Festival. That performance was measured and steady. Here he gives himself free rein to play with phrasing, division, tempo, and mood.
No performance in Italy would be complete without Malaga and Estate, both picked up by Joćo in the summer of 1963, when he was performing in Viareggio. Malaga was one of Italys hits that year (as was The Girl From Ipanema, recorded by Tom Jobim in The Composer of Desafinado Plays). Joćo wasnt quick to record either songEstate would appear on Amoroso (1977), Malaga on Joćo (1991)but theyve since become staples in his repertoire. In Umbria, Malaga is given a particularly romantic vocal delivery, while the guitar goes its own way, at times producing only a single chord. The big news in Estate is that Joćo makes an effort to keep to the Italian pronunciation and actually sings rose and not hose, although he persists in turning tutte le cose into tutti le cosi. Still, how can one resist his rendition, unsurpassed in countless recordings by countless artists?
The Caymmis and the Jobims are gathered in a block that is interrupted only by O Pato (1960), which, surprisingly, Joćo manages to make sound fresh with lightheartedness and the well-placed vibrato (has he heard Trio Esperanēas version?). Although this block represents a good number of his greatest hits, it benefits from nuanced interpretations that never repeat what has been done before.
Live at Umbria Jazz may not provide the shock value of the landmark Live in Montreux, but it matches it in quality, which is something that cant be said for the butchered live CD Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar (1994). If you love Joćo Gilberto, you shouldnt be without it.
Joćo Gilberto: Live at Umbria Jazz
(EGEA-UJ EUJ 1004; 2002); 59:43 min.
Recorded live at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy
Teatro Morlacchi, Perugia, 21 July 1996
01. Isto Aqui o Que É? (Ary Barroso)
02. De Conversa em Conversa (Lścio Alves/Haroldo Barbosa)
03. Pra Que Discutir com Madame? (Haroldo Barbosa/Janet de Almeida)
04. Malaga (Fred Bongusto)
05. Estate (Bruno Martino/Bruno Brighetti)
06. Lį Vem a Baiana (Dorival Caymmi)
07. Corcovado (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
08. Doralice (Dorival Caymmi/Antōnio de Almeida)
09. Rosa Morena (Dorival Caymmi)
10. Desafinado (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Newton Mendonēa)
11. Saudade da Bahia (Dorival Caymmi)
12. O Pato (Jaime Silva/Neuza Teixeira)
13. Chega de Saudade (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Vinicius de Moraes)
14. Garota de Ipanema (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Vinicius de Moraes)
= = =
Whats Joćo singing this year? Check the set lists of his three Sćo Paulo performances in early August.
Copyright © 20022008 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.