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Chega de Saudade

João Gilberto

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Album Review

João Gilberto's debut LP, 1959's Chega de Saudade, was one of the most important bossa nova recordings, and credited by many as the album that, more than any other, launched bossa nova as a major popular music genre. The dozen songs add up to a surprisingly short playing time of about 23 minutes, but introduce several of bossa nova's most beloved trademarks: breezy, soothing melodies and vocals; tight arrangements with seamless blends of clipped guitar strokes and light orchestration, and, of course, the bossa nova rhythm. The most popular of these songs ("Chega de Saudade" and "Desafinado") had already been released as singles in 1958, but though they might be the most memorable tracks, the album maintains a consistently high standard (if a fairly similar mood throughout). [The 2010 U.K. CD reissue on El adds a lot of bonus material, starting with three 1959 Gilberto recordings used in the film Orfeo do Carnaval, among them another classic, "Manha de Carnaval." Also included are no less than eleven 1957-1959 Brazilian recordings by artists other than Gilberto that are tightly or loosely aligned with the early bossa nova movement Bola Sete and Walter Wanderley being the most well known of those. Gilberto was involved in most, but not all, of these as a songwriter or guitarist, and the rationale for their inclusion is not spelled out in the CD's annotation (which, for that matter, has only basic details about these non-Gilberto tracks). It's churlish to complain about abundant extra material on a reissue CD that does include everything from the album it's based upon, but the 12-page booklet had room for such information. Packaging criticism aside, those 11 tracks by performers other than Gilberto are enjoyable and show different slants on the early bossa nova sound, sometimes instrumental, sometimes with shades of exotica (on Wanderley's organ-dominated cuts), sometimes with women singers, and sometimes poppier in approach than Gilberto's own work. Three consecutive versions of Gilberto's "Ho-Ba-La-La" (one of the songs from Chega de Saudade) seem like a programming lapse, but Norma Bengell's vocal version of that song is a highlight, as is Alaide Costa's jazzy rendering of Gilberto's "Minha Saudade."'

Biography

Born: 10 June 1931 in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Genre: Bossa Nova

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

When talking about bossa nova, perhaps the signature pop music sound of Brazil, frequently the first name to come to one's lips is that of Antonio Carlos Jobim. With songs like "The Girl From Ipanema" and "Desafindo," Jobim pretty much set the standard for the creation of the bossa nova in the mid-'50s. However, as is often the case, others come along and take the genre in a new direction, reinventing through radical reinterpretation, be it lyrically, rhythmically, or in live performance, making...
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