For many of us, July is a time of peak temperatures and time off with family and friends, whether traveling on a vacation or just staying at home in wonderful air conditioning! While preparing for this week’s moment, I kept coming back to music that takes me to another place where I can let go of life’s stresses and relax: the wonderful world of bossa nova!
The genre of bossa nova, literally meaning “new trend” or “new wave,” is a relatively new style similar to the samba that developed in the 1950’s and quickly became the dominant genre of popular music in Brazil. At the heart of bossa nova is a specific rhythmic accompaniment carried primarily by a style of guitar playing pioneered by the stylings of Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto. Guitarists of the bossa nova came from the “classical” technique and played each rhythmic layer of the bossa nova rhythm with a different part of the hand. Gilberto was so obsessed with the perfection of this style that he would lock himself in the bathroom and play the same chord for many hours in a row!
“Father of bossa nova” Antonio Carols Jobim, or Tom Jobim, is one of the greatest ambassadors of Brazilian music and one of the most important songwriters of the 20th century. He is also one of my favorite musicians of all time. After the release of his first album with Giberto in 1958, the new sound and sophisticated harmonies of his music led to Jobim’s growing popularity in the U.S., and even more so after his performance at Carnegie Hall in 1962. With the help of prominent artists like Frank Sinatra and saxophonist Stan Getz, Jobim internationalized the bossa nova style in the 1960’s and many of his songs, such as “Girl from Ipanema,” are still staples in the jazz repertoire worldwide.
My favorite album of bossa nova music is a collaboration with Frank Sinatra, also one of my all-time favorite musicians. Simply titled Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, the 1967 album features a blend of 10 tracks with original compositions of Jobim and classic standards from the Great American Songbook arranged in the bossa nova style. In 2010, Concord Records released Sinatra/Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings with 20 tracks they recorded together. I cannot recommend this music highly enough… it is my go-to music when relaxing on vacation or cooking at home 🙂
It’s impossible for me to pick one favorite track, so I won’t! Instead, I give you a bossa nova medley that Sinatra and Jobim performed live in 1967. The tunes in order (and in English) are Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars, Change Partners, I Concentrate On You, and of course, The Girl from Ipanema. Notice the style and grace of Jobim’s guitar playing, the ease of the groove underneath the beautiful melodies, and the natural chemistry between the two masters.
I hope you relax and enjoy!