João Gilberto 1931 – 2019


We’re saddened to hear of João Gilberto’s death, aged 88. Gilberto was the father of Bossa nova, developing this new style of jazz-flavoured samba during the 1950s.  In 1964, he collaborated with Stan Getz, Antônio Carlos Jobim and his wife Astrud Gilberto on the pioneering album Getz/Gilberto, which spawned one of the greatest recordings of the era, the glorious Girl from Ipanema.

Gilberto had suffered for his art – his father, frustrated at his son’s unwillingness to get a ‘real’ job, had him sent to a mental hospital in the mid-Fifties, while his career was already underway – and was notorious at his peak as a musical perfectionist. In 1956, he effectively invented Bossa Nova with the song Bim Bom, and produced the genre’s first hit with Chega de Saudade. The music would reach an international audience on the soundtrack of Black Orpheus in 1959, and then exploded with the Getz/Gilberto LP.

This infectious, light, summery sound would come to epitomise the sound of Brazil in particular, Latin America in general and easy listening sophistication and modernist optimism around the world for many. Bossa Nova was the very height of cool, and alongside Jobim, Gilberto was its most famous practitioner. Ironically, from the mid-Sixties until 1980, he lived in exile in the USA, as Brazil fell to a military coup.

Gilberto carried on recording into the early 2000s, but in his later years, financial debt, declining mental illness and physical frailty took their toll and he disappeared into relative obscurity even as new generations rediscovered his sophisticated sounds and breezy musical style. We still find nothing more suited to a sunny afternoon chilling out…