on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2018 14 Dez

The never ending nights with Getz & Gilberto

von: Manafonistas Filed under: Blog | TB | 4 Comments



The first time I really listened to João Gilberto, as opposed to hearing him in an anodyne background setting, was as a DJ in the spring of 1987. I had wangled my way into a slot early on Sunday mornings by pretending to know something about that jazz. The truth was that I was ignorant but curious, and relied heavily on randomly selecting vinyl from the stacks, reading the capsule reviews and suggested tracks scrawled on stickers on the back of each album cover by my predecessors, and giving anything that looked promising a brief preview before spinning it on the air.

Bossa nova seemed like a good way to balance the squawks and growls of the Henry Threadgill and Eric Dolphy records we had in heavy rotation for jazz shows that semester, and I found myself programming lots of Antonio Carlos Jobim. (I did not realize until later that he was neither a brother nor cousin of Tom, but actually the same person.) 

Then João Gilberto’s Live in Montreux arrived in the studio. The album was recorded in 1985 but only released early in 1987. WPRB’s jazz director gave every track multiple check marks in his review—the ultimate endorsement. Side one, track one was “Sem Compromisso”, a samba composed by Geraldo Pereira. I only learned years later about the way Geraldo Pereira had transformed samba, and the subtle defiance and invention of his lyrics. In 1987, I did not understand a single word. But I was hooked immediately, drawn ineluctably by Gilberto’s solo voice and guitar rendition.

Live in Montreux became my go-to late-night crash album. And it was on heavy rotation in my car as I drove around the New Jersey suburbs that summer, hoping in vain that the music would deliver on its implicit promise of serving the purpose of seduction. I remember one sultry midnight in particular, as I pulled to the side of a darkened cul-de-sac scented with the fragrance of blooming native sweetshrub and prepared to make my bumbling pitch to the comely lass seated, as if by some divine providence, in the passenger seat. 

First, we smoked a joint. Then I put on Live in Montreux. And before I could even reach an arm across the great divide separating our bucket seats, she was laughing uproariously. She was reduced to giggling incoherence by the combination of the powerful herb and João Gilberto’s magic. All she could say was, “No way. That is not a real language!”

No single experience was more pivotal in setting me on the road to becoming a Brazilianist. After that, I had to know what he was singing. And I realized more gradually that I had to understand how what he was singing could be language and music simultaneously, a message drawing on the deep matrix of Brazilian culture that also distilled the sound of samba to its sibilant essence.

It is a path that brought me full circle as I wrote this book, as I listened repeatedly to João Gilberto while driving around a different set of suburbs, finding the music no longer strange but even more powerfully seductive. At this point, it is a well that I know I will draw upon many times as the decades pile upon one another. And the path for each visit was already marked, in some way, by the groove of that first LP. It is the music that turned my head towards more distant shores and that continues to get me through the night.


(Bryan McCann)

This entry was posted on Freitag, 14. Dezember 2018 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    33 1/3 are a great series, and books of them I read and really liked very much in recent years were about David Bowie‘s LOW, Can‘s TAGO MAGO, Young Marble Giants‘ COLOSSAL YOUTH, and David Bowie‘s LOW.

    This new one is from old times, and really from another era. Reading his five guest-blogging mini essays on this famous album (on the 33 1/3 website, see blogroll) made me quite curious. And I decided to play one of the tracks as part of the fourth hour of my long radio night on Dec. 29th. One that came to mind in seconds.

    That hour is called THE IMAGINARY JUKEBOX and, possibly, we have a special voice in that hour reading a quote from Julio Cortazar‘s Rayuela.

  2. Jan Reetze:

    Immer wieder eine wunderschöne Platte.

    Die 33 1/3-Reihe hat, jedenfalls ist das mein Eindruck, ihre beste Zeit wohl hinter sich. Seit sie zu Bloomsbury gegangen ist, hängen sich die Bücher mehr und mehr an kommerziell erfolgreiche Alben an. Einen Band wie jenen über „Another Green World“ würde man dort heute nicht mehr loswerden.

  3. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Ist mir gar nicht aufgefallen.

    Aber ich hätte gar nichts dagegen, eine spannende Ausgabe über Keith Jarretts KÖLN CONCERT zu lesen, besonders wenn Manfred Eicher und Keith Jarrett Erinnerungsarbeit leisten. Was KJ betrifft, natürlich unwahrscheinlich.

    ANOTHER GREEN WORLD dürfte aber als epochales Werk einer neuen Bloomsbury-Politik entsprechen, aber was gesxhieht nun mit meinem 180-Seiten Manuskript zu TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN (BY STRATEGY)?! :):)

    Ich fand das Buch zu meiner alten Lieblingsplatte COLOSSAL YOUTH von den Young Marble Giants grandios.

  4. Jan:

    Da muss man sich im Prinzip nur die Vorschläge ansehen, die sie in ihrem Blog veröffentlichen, und was die Leser dazu meinen, und das dann vergleichen mit dem, was tatsächlich als Buch erscheint. Um nicht missverstanden zu werden: Die Reihe ist immer noch gut, aber die Herausgeber waren schon mal risikobereiter.

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