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(Six Degrees 1133 As broadcast on WVIA-FM 6/27/2007)
The world music scene is an almost endless source of musical fascination, especially given the liberal cross pollenization that is going on among musicians from different parts of the world, who are constantly busy devising new mixtures of previously very disparate styles and even cultures. The world music scene began to take off in the US in the late 1980s in the wake of Paul Simon's seminal album Graceland, which features African musicians prominently. In the more than two decades since then, world music has proliferated and the fusing of musical styles that Simon's album represented has grown into a rich and varied scene.
But more than twenty years before Simon's Graceland, there was another thriving world music phenomenon that achieved a degree of popularity in the US: bossa nova music from Brazil. In 1963 the late jazz saxophonist Stan Getz made what has become the seminal album that brought bossa nova to North America, Getz/Gilberto, which featured the hit Girl From Ipanema. Other Brazilian music followed, especially in the jazz world, but also on the pop charts with Sergio Mendes' Brazil 66.
The "Gilberto" in Getz/Gilberto was João Gilberto, the Brazilian guitarist, singer and composer who was a part of many of the classic bossa nova tunes. João Gilberto and his wife Miúcha, who was also a singer, had a daughter named Isabel who was born in 1966 in New York, and by the age of seven she was joining her parents on stage and on record. Isabel, or "Bebel" appeared on her mother's first solo album at age seven, and by age nine, Bebel put in a guest appearance with her mother and Getz at Carnegie Hall.
Now Bebel Gilberto is out with her newest CD called Momento.
Though born in New Yrok, Ms. Gilberto grew up in Brazil, but has been dividing her time between Rio de Janeiro and New York over the years. She recorded and performed in Brazil and also became part of a theatrical troupe there. In 1991, she moved back to New York at attend the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In 2000 Ms. Gilberto released her first US solo album Tanto Tempo, which was nominated for a Grammy in the World Music category. She followed that in 2004 with an eponymous release. Now Momento continues the enjoyable cross-cultural mix that has marked Ms. Gilberto's music -- a combination of classic bossa nova influence with gentle but creative electronica. Momento is definitely a cross-cultural work, having been recorded in New York, Rio and London. Her most frequent collaborator on the recording is Japanese guitarist Masa Shimizu. So musicians from four continents are represented, sometimes all at once, with some of the tracks being composites of overdubs recorded in the various cities. Lyrically, the CD is also a mix, with words in English and Portuguese, sometimes switching back and forth within the same song.
Ms. Gilberto herself has a classic Brazilian vocal style, soft with little vibrato that is both understated and sultry.
The material is mostly original, written or co-written by Ms. Gilberto, but there are also three diverse covers, including Cole Porter's Night and Day, and a kind of classic Brazilian bossa written by her uncle Chico Buarque, who is also quite well-known in Brazil. One can always hear at least an undercurrent of Brazilian influence, but the music has no fear of adopting the ingredients of electronica and ambient. However, the sound can also be very acoustic. Ms. Gilberto enlisted four different producers with whom she worked at the various recording venues, but in the end says she, quote, "took total responsibility for this album," doing more of her own experimentation in the studio.
The CD opens with its title track, Momento, which started as an improvisation with guitarist Shimizu, and percussionist Mauro Refosco. The subtle electronic instrumentation and beat contrasts with the Brazilian feel, and the acoustic instruments like vibes and cello. <<>>
With English and Portuguese lyrics, and perhaps the most electronic dance-oriented sound on the CD is Bring Back the Love, which features a guest apperarance of the American pop group Brazilian Girls. The track is an excellent mix of the samba and the ambient. <<>>
Also mixing English and Portuguese, bossa nova and techno is Close to You. The song manages to capture some of the best of both beats. <<>>
One of the cover tunes is Caçada, written Ms. Gilberto's uncle Chico Buarque. Except for some subtle cross-cultural touches, the song is taken in a more traditional Brazilian style. <<>>
Ms. Gilberto becomes the classic Brazilian chanteuse on her version of Night and Day, nicely done in the style of the mid-1960s bossa nova wave, including a tenor sax reminiscent of Stan Getz, as played by Paulo Levi. <<>>
One of the more intriguing tracks is Tranquilo, which sounds more Cuban than Brazilian, with a bit of a salsa beat, and a tune that is a kind of a cross between La Bamba, and the folk song Guantanamera. <<>>
One of the CD's highlights for me is Os Novos Norkinos, which also skillfully blends the various diverse influences that go into Ms. Gilberto's music -- American electronic pop, and classic Brazilian bossa nova and samba. Again, the bilingual lyrics are a reflection of that. <<>>
After the more American pop sound of Cadê Você? <<>>... The CD ends with an original piece called Words, performed with the accompaniment of only Masa Shimizu's acoustic guitar. It's nicely done, and also into the more traditional Brazilian sound. <<>>
Bebel Gilberto's new CD Momento, named after the idea of music being of the moment, is a delightful world fusion project, mixing more traditional Brazilian bossa nova and samba with contemporary electronica and ambient sounds. Ms. Gilberto, whose parents and uncle are significant figures on the Brazilian music scene, combines her family's musical trademarks with the sound of her adopted and native city of New York with musicians from the Big Apple, Rio, London and her long-time colleague Japanese-born guitarist Masa Shimizu, to create a recording that is both musically adventurous and very pleasing in sound.
Sonically, we'll give the CD an "A." The sonic mixture is as diverse as the stylistic amalgam, and it all comes together very well, especially given the fact that the sessions took place on three continents. The recording of Ms. Gilberto's vocal has a nice warmth, and some of the percussion sounds can make for impressive listening on a good sound system. The dynamic range is also better than average, reproducing the music's ebb and flow well.
It's an increasingly small world, and that is certainly reflected in music. Bebel Gilberto's new CD Momento is an excellent example of the best side of that fusion of styles.
(c) Copyright 2007 George D. Graham. All rights reseved.
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