Artists Worth Checking Out: Bebel Gilberto’s first works produces some very easy listening


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SPECIAL NOTE:  We hear people talk about how they started to enjoy their favorite hobbies–whether it is through a funny story, a song, or in these days of social media–a video shared online or via email/text message.

I took a different path.  During the spring semester in 1994 (inbetween roughly my junior and senior years in undergrad), I took a class on Music Appreciation.  Throughout the course, we listened on a very scratchy phonograph (which was probably manufactured in the early or mid 1960’s just looking at it) as sounds of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, and other classical composers filled up many a three hours on most Thursday nights during the snowy winter months.

But by the time our textbook reached the middle part of the 20th century and the classical standards were replaced with the true American art form simply known as jazz, I was instantly hooked.  The often cool vibes of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Charlie Parker, Dave Brubeck, and the like instantly fed my curiosity to learn more.

Little did I realize that the music to the Peanuts cartoons also had a jazz flair.  Devoted fans should instantly recognize that all of the music from those beloved cartoons was done so effortlessly by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, of which this same instructor introduced me and about 20 to 30 other young school aged kids nearly 15 years before to a screening of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on film reel.

I wish to thank this longtime Professor of Speech and Music (of which I will leave nameless to protect his privacy) at a proud, liberal arts college in Northern Indiana for being one of my true inspirations in really appreciating jazz and I wish to extend a special welcome to those students and/or alumni in his classes that might be curious to know about how my passion for Brazilian jazz has blossomed over the last several years.


The artist I chose to highlight this week truly belongs on any All-Star team, and it is not just because she shares the same name as Brazilian jazz royalty.  She carved her own niche in bringing the calm, but steady beats of bossa nova while showcasing her own unique and sweet talents here in the United States.

Born Isabel Gilberto de Oliveira on May 12, 1966 in New York City, this Grammy Award-nominated singer is the daughter of João Gilberto and singer Miúcha (please see prior blog in Mother’s Day tribute).  Bebel Gilberto is also the uncle of singer/composer Chico Buarque.

Getting the music bug at an early age, she performed with her mother in 1973 and two years later, teamed up with her mother and legendary performer Stan Getz at a jazz festival in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

Bebel later traveled to her native land in Brazil to collaborate and performed some songs for the children’s soundtrack Os Saltimbancos (or simply known as “The Mummers”).  She also took time to join some experimental theater and was a founding member of the Ipanema Beach based group Circo Voador (Flying Circus).  There, she met Cazuza, who would become a major rock star in that country during the 1980’s.

Her early song credits are on the 1996 album dedicated to AIDS research, Red Hot and Rio, along with performing some of the songs on the soundtrack to the movie, Next Stop Wonderland.

Bebel finally went on her own in 2000 with the “Tanto Tempo” album.  The best songs in my opinion are the title track (number 3), Mais Feliz (or simply being “happier”, on Track 5), and on Track 7 doing her best covering the Wanda Sa version of Summer Samba/So Nice.

Four years later under the Six Degrees Records label–with the primary help of Masa Shimuzi on acoustic guitar and Marius de Vries on piano, one of her signature tracks leads off with “Baby” and the really simple but cool lyrics as if Bebel herself was describing Brazil on a billboard or postcard.

And if you are a fan of flutes and congo dreams, check out the “Ooooooooooooh” on track 7, “Cada Beijo” (second word pronounced as BEE ju, meaning simply “Every Kiss”).  It definitely helps having the lyrics inside the booklet, but unlike the first CD where it is presented in simple triple-fold cardboard, it would help if the lyrics were not on very light pink paper.  It was a little difficult to read the words.

But that does not take away from a great listen, whether you are gearing up for that graduation party or setting up plans to kick back and relax during the Memorial Day holiday weekend–otherwise known to most Americans as the first true weekend of summer.

And it definitely looks like Bebel is in a true summer state of mind:








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Next week, I will profile Bebel’s most recent work, the September 2009 collaboration on the Verve label called, All in One.  (A little hint for all the beachgoers reading, there are a few nice pics inside that album art).

Just in case you were paying attention to the first part of this week’s blog…I talked about my love of jazz and how it all began listening in a three-hour credit college class.  Yes, the world of jazz is rich and very diverse and is the only music form with true American roots, as Ken Burns notably discussed at length in his 2000 PBS documentary series on “Jazz.”

Please don’t get me wrong, I do like hearing some Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars (either the Hot Fives or Hot Sevens are definite additions to any jazz fan’s library) or Duke Ellington’s classic “Take The ‘A’ Train”) once in a while.  And yes, even I am old enough to know fully well that even the once self-proclaimed “King of Pop”, the late, great Michael Jackson had a song that became an instant hit on many jazz stations called “Human Nature”.  Count also Chaka Khan, Hall and Oates, and Sting (from The Police fame during the early 1980’s into the 1990’s)–and you have yourself quite a foursome of rockers who crossed over into the world of jazz.

But just like what the late Dave Brubeck reminded us in 1962, it is best after a long week to simply “Take Five”.

Hope to see you next week.

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