Bebel Gilberto,
Bebel Gilberto
(EastWest, 2004)

What a hypnotic, utterly seductive slice of Brazilian bliss Gilberto's latest offering is, and a fine follow-up to her debut Tanto Tempo. This self-titled album takes jazz right into the realms of mainstream -- a lot of these songs have "summer hit" written all over them!

Elegantly packaged, with beautiful photographs by Mario Testino, assured production by Marius De Vries and a fabulous line up of Latin-American musicians, it's all topped off with Gilberto's lovely voice, which literally assuages your senses in the nicest possible way. Half of the songs are in Brazilian Portuguese, the remainder in engagingly accented English. The album has a hypnotic, calming effect when played at low volume, but evokes an irresistible urge to dance when played loud!

There are some very strong numbers here, from the alluring Anglo/Brazilian lyric of "Simplesmente" through to the glorious bossa nova of "Aganju" and "River Song," the rhythms of the latter flowing fast and sinuous, like the river the song celebrates. The G flutes of "Cada Beijo" are full of allure. I'd normally run a mile from songs with lyrics such as "Hmm, every kiss is good, how I long to kiss you," but they sound oh-so-mysterious and appealing when sung in Portuguese -- "Hmm ... cada beijo bom, hmm, que saudades de te beijar...." Perhaps that's why the song whose lyrics I least enjoy is Caetano Veloso's "Baby," because the cheesy English lyrics (which were apparently written tongue-in-cheek) make me recoil slightly.

The use of lavish orchestral string arrangements throughout the album is excellent, and adds a feeling of lushness and burgeoning beauty to the whole. The percussion is superb, and there's some fine guitar and piano playing throughout, whilst evocative flutes conjure images of places far, far from me.

The album as a whole is extremely well presented and produced, and I found myself hitting that "replay" button time and time again. In fact, those gorgeous bossa nova rhythms took me right back to the summer of '89, and the Pat Metheny Group's Letter From Home -- the very first bossa-influenced album I fell in love with. I'll probably forever associate the early English summer of '04 with this album!

Bebel Gilberto is Joao Gilberto's daughter, so it's hardly surprising that her music is so heavily influenced by "O Rei Da Bossa" (The King of Bossa). Her music is happy, infectious and celebratory, and full marks to her for delivering such a perfect slice of summer with this lovely album.

- Rambles
written by Debbie Koritsas
published 4 September 2004

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