Master Composers: Sylvia Telles


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Hearing this music for the first time made me feel like watching the figure skating competition during the Winter Olympics.

Lots of operatic type notes and plenty of dinging beats similar to Sergio Mendes with Brasil ’66 when they were the hot group back in the day.

Sylvia Telles was born on August 27, 1934.  According to Ruy Castro’s famous book Bossa Nova:  The Brazilian Music That Seduced The World–Telles originally wanted to be a ballet dancer.  She began recording albums in 1957, before bossa nova became commonplace spending significant time with Antonio Carlos Jobim.

In fact, it was Jobim himself that wrote one of the songs that gave her the classic nickname of “Dindi” (pronounced as Jin-jee).  The nickname was made referenced to a farm that Jobim and his longtime friend Vinicius de Moraes visited often.

My album Pick of the Week is from 1963 by Elenco Publishing.  Physical CD copies are scarce, but there are several Amazon links in Japan that might have a few copies available.

The best songs are on Track 3, “Voce E Eu” and the final track, “Dorme”.  The overall album is very short, a little over 32 minutes to be precise.  It has its’ moments, but IMHO–this album is just above average for me because I was expecting more and it fell just a bit flat both in the beginning and especially the end.

Telles was in the middle of recording ten albums in a decade.  By 1966, she spent five solid years in the United States, even doing a tribute album during that period.  But sadly in December 1966, shortly after Telles had recorded the very famous piece with the guitarist Rosinha de Valença, she was tragically killed in a car accident in Rio at the tender age of 32.

Ray Gilbert later on would add the English lyrics, which went something like this:

“Sky so vast is the sky / with faraway clouds just wandering by / Where do they go / oh I don’t know.”

Those lyrics is the main reason why I think this is indeed the right album to begin a new calendar year with.  As we turned the page exiting a very difficult year of 2017 and hoping for a newer beginning here in 2018, my hope is that we all are wiser and stay healthy and hopefully make better decisions that will make our lives better.

For the next two months, you will see my final posts chronicling other bossa nova pioneers who had their brief moments in the sun.  I will also take some time towards the end of January and the middle of February to highlight some more current artists that have delved into Brazilian jazz in their musical repertoire (and maybe, just maybe–there could be another Q&A stuffed inside your inbox).

Next week, look for my blog on Claudette Soares.  Enjoy your weekend.





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