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Joao and Astrud Gilberto
Book Review

BOSSA NOVA: The Story Of The Brazilian Music That Seduced The World  •  Ruy Castro

The classic Getz/Gilberto album that broke bossa nova in the States was certainly on the turntable in our house that never seemed to stop, alongside the Beatles, the Stones, and the 60s folk movement. I had no idea at the time that it would have as great an impact on my life as folk, blues, and rock and roll did, but that’s how it turned out. It was, after all, one of my dad’s records. But we could tell right away that it was really hip and we liked it, and it went into steady rotation like some of his other records, Dave Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan, Errol Garner and Ray Charles.

This fascinating musicography by Ruy (pronounced hoo-ey) Castro places you right in the small circle of people that invented bossa nova, a style that is still heard around the world every day, and is less than fifty years old. It’s not loud or exciting, it’s not even dance music per se. To many of us, it is perennially hip, and will never die. It is the suavest, coolest groove ever conceived. It may be best sung very softly with a nylon string guitar, but it has been beautifully rendered many ways.

The incredible detail of Castro’s research and insider outlook is confounding, he sounds like he must have been in the cirlcle, but makes no such allusion. He seems to know not only what who said what to whom but who thought what about whom. The book centers around the principal originators, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto, but includes the exploits and input of well over a dozen key figures in the birth of bossa nova.

It was an exciting time and place to be alive, I wish I’d been there. But for a week, I was there. This book is an absolute blessing to all bossa nova fans, and essential to all and any of us seeking to understand more about the music of our time.   • FG

Listen to clips from Getz/Gilberto:
Desafinado (Off Key)
Corcovado  (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)

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