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by Rachel Devitt

October 13, 2013

Bossa Nova 101

by Rachel Devitt  |  October 13, 2013

Drowsily sun-kissed, jazz-hued guitars. Vocals so hushed and intimate, it's as if they're purring those snaking, meandering melodies in your ear. A gauzy haze of an aesthetic that coats everything like the mist that often just barely clouds the view of the famed Corcovado mountain from the beaches of Rio. These are just a few of the wiles with which bossa nova has seduced the ears of the world over the years since it first developed in the clubs, cafes and artist enclaves of Ipanema in the 1960s.

Dive into the history of Brazil's most beguiling genre with our introductory primer. It starts with Elizete Cardoso's Cancao do Amor Demais, the legendary album that birthed bossa when Tom Jobim set Vinicius de Moraes' dreamy poetry to music that slowed and softened samba rhythms and João Gilberto taught himself to play them as quietly as possibly on his guitar under Cardoso's warmly whispered vocals. Then we move on to Gilberto's ex-wife, Astrud, whose famous collaborations with American jazzman Stan Getz gave us "Girl from Ipanema." More bossa pioneers follow, including Elis Regina, Sergio Mendes and Oscar Castro-Neves, the legendary bossa musician-turned-film-composer who passed away on September 27. Those key figures segue into next-generation artists like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa, who evolved bossa (among other sounds) into tropicalia and Brazilian pop. Finally, explore works by more jazz expats (like Dizzy Gillespie), revivalists (like Eliane Elias) and experimenters (like Bebel Gilberto).

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