This is music to put a smile on your face at a time of great uncertainty, fear and a questioning of the society in which we currently live. It tells of a bye gone era when people were far less reliant on technical gadgetry, when people were far more content with simple pleasures, and, as with all great music, it is timeless and possesses universal qualities.
A good decade after the bossa nova explosion, Stan Getz and Brazilian singer and guitarist João Gilberto briefly reformed to record and perform together. While not reaching the same dizzy heights as the early-mid 1960s recordings, these live performances from dates at the now defunct Keystone Korner in San Francisco from May 1976 nonetheless are very worthy in their own right and thankfully avoid the trap of repeating the same repertoire by interpreting a whole new song selection as well as a few selective choices from the classic bossa nova era.
A non-Brazilian rhythm section may be off-putting to some, but these are seasoned jazz musicians and perfectly competent accompanists for Getz and Gilberto. They include Joanne Brackeen on piano, Clint Houston on double bass and Billy Hart on drums, the latter of whom is particularly sensitive to those unique poly-rhythmic Brazilian rhythms, with roots that go way back to Africa. The classic Tom Jobim composition, ‘Agua de março’ receives a subtle reading from Gilberto and a fine parallel to the Elis Regina version that she recorded with the composer himself on piano from 1974, just two years previous. The Caymmi family are to Brazilian folk what the Watersons are to English folk and ‘Samba de minha terra’ here receives a sumptuous treatment. No less than Miles Davis once opined that João Gilberto could read a newspaper and still sound wonderful and that is praise indeed. Getz plays a largely supportive role, but his exquisite soloing is much in evidence on a lesser known number, ‘E preciso perdoar’ while the tenorist takes centre stage on ‘Eu vim de Bahia’. This was most certainly a relationship of equals and that makes the music all the more enjoyable. One of the all-time great bossa nova songs is reprised to stunning effect on ‘Chega de saudade’ and here Getz lays down a delicious solo with Hart in full flow on the hi-hat cymbals. A stunningly detailed and beautifully illustrated inner sleeve that is all but a mini book in name provides countless informative testimonies on the recordings.
Already a prime contender for Brazilian re-issue of the year, though bear in mind this is in fact the very first time that this music has been issued commercially.
Some reviewers have commented on the quality of the sound and, in comparison with the optimum studio sound of the 1960s originals of this pair, a live recording will necessarily not be . However, the voice of João Gilberto and his guitar is perfectly acceptable and possibly only the bass and drums are not as upfront and clear as one might hope for. The emotional tenor of Getz is immediately discernible and the following question to dissenters needs to be posed: would you rather not have this recording at all, or accept some minor imperfections? In a musical world full of re-mastered classics, we sometimes lose sight that music, like human beings, can still be beautiful because of their imperfections and not in spite of them.