June 21, 2008 / 12:26 AM / 10 years ago

N.Y. goes Bossa Nova for historic Joao Gilberto show

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As Brazil’s Bossa Nova reaches 50 this year, one of its originators will play a concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall — the landmark venue that helped spread the rhythm across the world.

Joao Gilberto’s syncopated guitar will ring out as part of the JVC Jazz Festival this Sunday to remind fans how the subtle and contained manner of singing and playing samba songs has transformed the Brazilian music forever.

“Bossa Nova is seen as the synonym of Brazilian music outside the country,” said Brazilian critic Zuza Homem de Mello, who recently published a book about Gilberto, now 77.

De Mello is also the curator of an exhibit on the prominent musical movement to take place in Sao Paulo in July.

The trend officially started in 1958 with “Chega de Saudade,” a song that would epitomize one of the most successful partnerships in Brazilian music, the tunes of Tom Jobim and the interpretation of Gilberto.

“Joao Gilberto was the voice of Bossa Nova, the composer was Antonio Carlos Jobim,” Los Angeles-based Brazilian musician Sergio Mendes said recently.

Brazil was then living a decade of optimism and modernization, with a new capital, sound economic growth and a democratically-elected president, Juscelino Kubitschek, who became known as the “bossa nova president.”

The new beat conquered young jazz-playing musicians in Rio de Janeiro and quickly became popular with the middle class.

American musicians like Burt Bacharach, who traveled to perform in Rio, picked up the rhythm. Many jazz musicians such as Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd adopted the new style in their songs and records.

The sound was popularized in the mid-1960s when “The Girl from Ipanema” performed by Astrud Gilberto, Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz and became a worldwide hit.

“Bossa Nova’s internationalization happened because of jazz. Its first audience was jazz musicians, many of them American who came to Brazil in the late 50s and took records back to the United States,” De Mello said.

But it was not until a historic concert at Carnegie Hall in 1962 that Bossa Nova, performed by Brazilians, started conquering the world.

Giberto is seen as a genius by legions of fans for the way he combined voice and guitar, not always running the two at the expected pace.

Considered a perfectionist, Gilberto needs optimal technical conditions to perform. He rarely leaves his apartment in Rio’s upscale Leblon neighborhood.

So it is treat for fans for him to be in New York, and to play again at Carnegie Hall.

Reporting by Adriana Garcia, editing by Andrei Khalip and Philip Barbara

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