João Gilberto passed away on July 6, 2019 at the age of 88. Before Billie Eilish was barely whispering her vocals and ASMR was an internet thing, Gilberto was obsessing over the way his guitar and vocals sounded. Microphones and amplifiers were relatively new to Brazil in the 1950s. Gilberto became entranced by amplifying the softer intricacies of performing a mix of Brazilian Samba And American Jazz known now as bossa nova.
In 1965, his collaboration with jazz saxophonist Stan Getz, Getz/Gilberto, would go on to win a Grammy. It’s still an amazing work. Even if your gut reacts in some “weird tiki-lounge” vibe or “is this elevator music” way, take a few minutes and really draw this in. The performance and recording techniques were new. Nobody had put a microphone on a guitar and vocal at the same time quite like this before. This is true innovation being captured in real time.
One example to hopefully draw you in – “Desafinado” from Getz/Gilberto:
And, now that you’ve experienced a studio recording, check out this live version. Note the size of the room and the restraint, softness, and minimalism of it all.
NYT has done justice on his legacy. If you want more, they did a great job on the Popcast and in their writing.