Tribute to Joao Gilberto: Luis Reis & Juan Mellado

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Luis Reis & Juan Mellado play a selection of the songs by Joao Gilberto.

A self-taught guitarist and singer, Gilberto moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1950 and joined the vocal group Garotos da Lua ("The Boys of the Moon") as their lead singer. After a year and a half, he was kicked out of the group for his lack of discipline and spent the next several years in a marginal existence. Eventually he found his way, creating a new way to express himself in voice and on the guitar. The result of his obsessive experiments became known as bossa nova.
Bossa nova is a refined version of samba, deemphasizing the percussive aspect of its rhythm and enriching the melodic and harmonic content. Rather than relying on the traditional Afro-Brazilian percussive instruments, bossa nova usually utilizes a drum set. João Gilberto often eschews all accompaniment, using only his guitar, which he uses as a percussive as well as a harmonic instrument. The singing style he developed is almost whispering, economical, and without vibrato. He creates his tempo tensions by singing ahead or behind the guitar.

This style, which Gilberto introduced in 1957, created a sensation in the musical circles of Rio's Zona Sul, and many young guitarists sought to imitate it. It was first heard on record in 1958, when João Gilberto accompanied singer Elizete Cardoso in a recording of "Chega de Saudade", a song by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. Shortly after this recording, João Gilberto made his own debut single of the same song, followed by the 1959 LP, Chega de Saudade. The song became a hit, launching Gilberto's career and the bossa nova craze.

Besides a number of Jobim compositions, the album Chega de Suadade featured older sambas and popular songs from the 1940s and '50s, all performed in the distinctive bossa nova style. This album was followed by two more in 1960 and 1961, by which time the singer featured new songs by a younger generation of performer/composers such as Carlos Lyra and Roberto Menescal. By 1962, bossa nova had been embraced by such North American jazz musicians as Herbie Mann, Charlie Byrd, and Stan Getz, who invited Gilberto and Jobim to collaborate on what became one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time, Getz/Gilberto.

Through this album, Gilberto's wife, Astrud, became an international star, and the Jobim/de Moraes composition "The Girl from Ipanema" became a worldwide pop music standard for the ages. João Gilberto continued to perform through the 1960s, but did not release another studio album until João Gilberto en México, recorded in 1970 during a period of residence in Mexico. João Gilberto, aka the "White Album" (1973), featured hypnotic minimalist execution and is widely considered to be his best album.

Art Base, Friday 29/10/21 20h, 15E ( reduced 10E for students under 26 and jobseekers),
29 rue des Sables Zandstraat, 1000 Bruxelles. For reservations & more info to


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