Steve Wiley is Up on the Sun's resident Record Store Geek. Biweekly, he shares stories of great music and whacky characters from his continuing 27 years in Valley record stores and the always-zany music biz.
Have you been watching the World Cup? Me too.
I'm a huge sports fan, but I only follow soccer during this one event, kind of like the Olympic sports. I'm not ready to trade in the NFL or MLB, but I'm looking forward to today's match between the U.S. and Belgium, and, whether our boys win or lose, the rest of the tourney. I've really been enjoying the sport, the crowds, and of course, the host country.
"Hold on, Geek, this is a music blog."
Don't worry, I've found a way to tie my temporary sporting obsession with my perpetual music obsession -- and my fondness for partying -- all in a manner that pleases my editor. Read on, and I'll list eight of the greatest albums in the history of Brazilian music, complete with a Spotify playlist.
Hey, if you are going to enjoy the game, why not have a party?
And you know what they say? When in Brazil, do what the Brazilians do.
So let's have a futebol party.
I can't properly analyze the sport. I can't cook you Brazilian food. But luckily, thanks to years of listening, and a number of wonderful influences, I can put together a list of great Brazilian music.
Truth be told, it's a joy to do so. I've got more than enough jazz, samba, and bossa nova classics in my world music collection, and it's some of the coolest music on the planet. So like always, I'll jam some and write you up a list.
The Quarterfinalists of Brazilian Music
OK, here are the rules of the list: 1) It has to be Brazilian music, but it doesn't have a be a Brazilian artist; 2) I have to own the album; and 3) These are in no particular order (except number 1).
8. Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto. Getz/Gilberto. I have to start with the granddaddy of all the Brazilian albums here in the States. Getz/Gilberto introduced us to bossa nova, and the mighty Brazilian composer that is found on almost all of these albums, Antonio Carlos Jobim. It featured outstanding performances by saxophonist Getz and singer/guitarist Gilberto.
It also introduced us to Gilberto's wife, Astrud, who sang the classic "Girl From Ipanema," which even you might have heard, in her first-ever performance outside of her home. The record store elitist in me wanted to leave it off the playlist, because it's so obvious, but I couldn't. It just paints too great of a beach picture.
7. Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66. Equinox. Let's just get this out of the way: There's a fine line between great Brazilian pop and elevator music. But that's only because the elevator music people screwed up the stuff that the originals did and un-cooled it (and, truth be told, it was a fine line for Sergio as the years went on).
Anyway, this album jumps out and grabs you with the opening track, the sweet "Chove Chuva (Constant Rain)," which I first heard (like several tracks on this list) on Thievery Corporation's outstanding Sounds From the Verve Hi-Fi. Sweet vocals by the lovely Lani Hall and company, tasty piano, catchy arrangements, just like the rest of the album.
6. Various Artists. Blue Brazil: Blue Note In a Latin Groove.
I might have mentioned that when it comes to jazz, the ultimate label is Blue Note Records (see: 16 Blue Note Albums I'll Never Surrender). This compilation is no different. What's really impressed me is that it isn't the Blue Note regulars (Grant Green, Stanley Turrentine, etc.) doing covers; it's the actual Brazilian jazz masters doing their thing. Check out the Blue Brazil tracks on the playlist. Two of the best.
5. Milton Nascimento/Lo Borges. Club Da Esquina.
In addition to my old partner, the guy who turned me on to world music in general, one of the biggest Brazilian "guides" for me was critic Tom Moon, who wrote the book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. I was able to interview him at Changing Hands Bookstore, so I read his whole book, which featured a number of Brazilian greats, none better than this one.
I'll let you read his write-up for this album (you should buy the whole book), but make sure you listen to the opening track of the playlist off this album, "Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser." Hauntingly brilliant.
4. Various Artists. The Girl From Ipanema: The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook You can't write a Brazilian music list without Jobim. I wanted to include his The Composer of "Desifinado" Plays album, but I had to cut it in favor of this great compilation, which has some of his cuts, plus the very best of all the other artists (and we are talking about countless artists) that have made his compositions famous.
Unlike the Blue Note comp, this one features some really awesome American artists -- and when I say "awesome," I mean Wes Montgomery, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and other legends -- putting their own stamp on some of Jobim's all-time classics.
3. Astrud Gilberto. The Astrud Gilberto Album.
I like Astrud. Even though she came out of nowhere to take America by storm with "Girl From Ipenema," her relative lack of experience didn't leave many expecting much out of this album. Thanks to a strong band, with Jobim on guitar, she proved them wrong. Talk about running with an opportunity.
One of my all-time favorite songs of this, or any other, country is "Agua De Beber." I can't understand Portuguese, but it makes women sound sexy when they sing. If you want to hear it in English, try the Sinatra/Jobim version.
2. Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd: Jazz Samba Allmusic.com says this is actually the first full-fledged bossa nova album ever recorded by American jazz musicians.
I say whatever...turn it up. Great jazz guitar by Byrd. Smooth-yet-somehow-badass sax by Getz. It just flows musical goodness all over you. I included "Desifinado," which went on to be recorded by about a zillion other people. I still love this great instrumental version, with the flowing interplay between two masters, above all others.
1. Bebel Gilberto. Tanto Tempo. I've raved about this album before. In fact, I did it recently in Watch Me Sell This Album: 14 Playlist Champs, so I'll keep it brief here. My album of the year in 2000, it might be a desert isle disc for me. The third Gilberto on the list (the daughter of Joao, but not Astrud), we're obviously talking about a family of Brazilian music royalty here.
Tanto Tempo is a cool, funky, updating of all the other albums on the list. Personally, it' my number one album on the list.
Which says a lot, because to me, they are all essential.
Thanks for reading. Have an excellent week.
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