Review Summary: Cla/Ssic
In music, changing one’s sound in order to attract a larger audience is often times assumed to be a change for the worst, with artistic quality and caliber inherently compromised as a result. The 1964 release of Jazz-Bossa nova album Getz/Gilberto launched both of the album collaborators to unimaginable levels of international stardom. Far beyond what they had ever achieved, or would ever again achieve in their respective careers. The album opener,Girl from Ipanema, even went as far as peaking at number one on the Easy Listening chart in the U.S and attained ubiquity as a worldwide sensation. But an important question still stands. Did João Gilberto and Stan Getz compromise the stunning skill and quality that made albums such as Chega de Saudade (No More Blues) and For Musicians Only such masterworks (albeit, much less accessible masterworks)? Answering anything but “Absolutely Not” would be an absurd statement and an unforgivable belittlement to the masterpiece that is Getz/Gilberto.
The album clocks in at a mere and modest 34 minutes, but refuses to beat around the bush from the get-go. The opening number, Girl from Ipanema, is arguably the most beautiful tune on the record. João starts the song with warm and gentle guitar strumming coalesced with tender humming before breaking out into the hushed thunderbolt that is the first verse.
Olha, que coisa mais linda,
Mais cheia de graça,
É ela, menina, que vem e que passa,
Num doce balanço, a caminho do mar........
(English Translation Below)
Look, such a sight, so beautiful,
So filled with grace,
It’s her, this girl who comes and who passes,
With a sweet swing, on her way to the sea.
Gilberto sings this verse with his usually delicate and sweet mannerisms; sonic inflection so aesthetically and beautifully surreal that it truly leaves one breathless. Miles Davis even remarked once that “ [João Gilberto] could read a newspaper and sound good.” So quiet yet so powerful, powerful enough to attract the attention of otherwise probably distracted and inattentive radio-listeners abroad. The lyrics are the perfect fit as well, beautiful in all their simplicity, even after much of it being lost in translation.
And Stan? Ah, the equally important co-contributing Saxophonist makes himself known a little later than Gilberto; much like a good conversationalist, Getz speaks (or more accurately in this case, plays) only when needed, averting all possibilities of impurities or filler. But when he does eventually play, he plays! His solo two minutes into the third track, Para Machuchar Meu Coração (To Hurt My Heart), is particularly otherworldly. Getz’s note choice isn’t particularly inventive or new, but he plays with a technical and ardently passionate prowess that is truly unmatched, with his usually prolonged yet zestful notes glimmering brightly in the warm and fuzzy soundscapes set by Gilberto.
In terms of musical diversity, the album offers little. Be that as it may, it is far from a compromising trait, in fact, it works in the albums advantage. Much like how collapsing waves on the ocean only intensify the euphoric meditative sensation that they give with each successive crash, despite their bare simplicity. The record works in the same sense, with each song progressing beautifully into the next, only to augment all of the sensations given by the album.
So whether you are an impassioned music fan or just a casual radio listener, Getz/Gilberto will leave you dumbfounded. And much like Astrud Gilberto, you too, will be left saying