One afternoon in July 1958, Brazilian guitarist and singer João Gilberto entered a studio and quickly recorded "Chega de Saudade," an early composition by Vinicius de Moraes and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Soon afterward, it was released as a single by Brazilian label Odeon (EMI's subsidiary), with the blessings of Jobim and A&R man Aloysio Oliveira. The 78-rpm record was inconspicuous, and few of those involved in making it thought much about its impact. The changes it wrought in music, however, are still reverberating a half-century later.
Gilberto, with his quirky styles of singing and playing, represented a new, homegrown sound for Brazil's younger generation. This was a radical change of pace. Out were the powerful voices of Sinatra wannabes, and in came a quiet revolution, centered in Rio de Janeiro.
The revolution would spread to the United States four years later, when guitarist Charlie Byrd returned from a South American tour with a bunch of LPs and the will to record his own version of the genre. He shared some of his new material with saxophonist Stan Getz, and the two musicians agreed to meet in February 1962 in Washington, D.C. A three-hour recording session ensued, and a few weeks later, Jazz Samba was in stores. Its lead single, "Desafinado," became a bona fide American hit. Later that same year, Gilberto, Jobim, Sergio Mendes, and others played the first bossa nova concert at Carnegie Hall, and the genre's popularity was cemented.
Singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento was a young teenager at the time, and this new music left a lasting impression. "When bossa nova emerged with Tom Jobim [as he is known in Brazil], João Gilberto, and Vinicius de Moraes, I was 14 years old and was playing all kinds of styles in nightclubs," Nascimento recalls by e-mail. "Bossa was something that was extremely strong for our country, and it certainly affected myself and many other Brazilian musicians of that time."
To celebrate this landmark in musical history, Nascimento has joined forces with Paulo and Daniel Jobim (the son and grandson, respectively, of the late Antonio Carlos), plus drummer Paulo Braga, for an album and tour that makes its first U.S. stop in South Florida this Saturday. As the story goes, the idea did not foment as a way to cash in on bossa's jubilee. In fact the project had been in the works for quite a few years, because the four musicians had enjoyed professional and personal friendships for a long time.
"Every summer my father and I meet with Milton in Buzios [a small resortlike town a few minutes from Rio de Janeiro], where we spend the month on vacation, resting on the beach," Daniel Jobim explains by phone from Brazil. "Each time we got together, we always talked about making a record, but time went by and we never did it due to our individual schedules. However, after a series of false starts, we finally realized it finally was the time to finally get to it."
The result is Novas Bossas (Blue Note), a disc that re-creates many songs by the elder Jobim, plus a handful of tunes from Nascimento, Dorival Caymmi, as well as Daniel. The last contributed "Dias Azuis," a ballad he previously recorded with Lee Ritenour on the guitarist's 2007 Smoke 'n' Mirrors.
"My idea was to do only Tom Jobim's material," Nascimento says, "but Paulinho [Paulo Jobim], Daniel, and Braga wanted to include some of my songs and some of Caymmi as well, and I thought that was great."
What finally spurred them all to action was a concert they played together last year at Rio's Botanical Garden, in celebration of what would have been Antonio Carlos Jobim's 80th birthday. "That first performance marked the opening of a cultural center named after my grandfather, and it was really cool to play surrounded by the botanical garden's trees," recalls Daniel. "After we finished the show, everyone wanted to continue working together, and fans kept asking for more. The current tour, however, ended up having a different repertoire from that of the first show together."
He explains that the set list for the U.S. tour will not be a carbon copy of Novas Bossas, though. "We will be playing many tunes from the CD, but we will also do more material from Nascimento's career, which we have adapted to the quartet format and play in our own style."
Daniel recognizes that his grandfather's songs helped solidify his native country's importance in the music business around the globe. "He wrote more than 400 songs, and he helped to universalize music in Brazil into a different perspective," Daniel says. "Today people who might not even be able to find Brazil know, from 'The Girl from Ipanema,' that there is a beach in Rio with a beautiful woman walking by. That gives a good image of Brazil to faraway places."
At the concert, expect both Jobim and Nascimento favorites; according to Daniel, the set list should include both "The Girl from Ipanema" and "Maria Maria," neither of which are on the disc. "This show has brought together both Milton's Brazilian fans and foreign supporters as well," he says. "It is great to see that from the stage, and I believe that playing a mixed repertoire helps to make that happen."