Print this Page

Live Reviews

Joao Gilberto
June 22, 2008

By Ernest Barteldes

Carnegie Hall
New York City

No one expected João Gilberto to come up with something new at his recent solo appearance at Carnegie Hall during the JVC  Jazz Festival, but no one was complaining either. Greeted with a standing ovation as he walked onto the stage without announcement, he opened with “Doralice,” a tune from the Getz/Gilberto album (notably the last jazz album to earn a Best Album award at the Grammys until Herbie Hancock's historical win this year), which he quickly followed up with “Chega de Saudade,” arguably the song that launched the bossa nova craze 50 years ago in Gilberto's native Brazil before briefly dominating the international music scene until a certain group of Liverpudlians came along.


Not that bossa has lost its following since then - the proof of that is the legions of fans young and old that filled Carnegie Hall in addition to countless others hoping to score a last-minute ticket outside. Inside, one could hear a pin drop as Gilberto went through a mix of well-known and obscure numbers, including “Morena Boca de Ouro,”  “O Pato” and other songs close to his heart. Halfway through the set, he personally adjusted the guitar mike while apologizing profusely as he did so (a rarity when it comes to the him). During “Aos Pes Da Santa Cruz” (another tune from Getz/Gilberto), he carefully enunciated each of the verses, paying attention to every syllable that came out of his mouth.


One of the highlights was his take on Antonio Carlos Jobim's “Wave,” which he sang against the guitar's beat – a trick that he mastered in the late ‘50s that few have been able to imitate to this date. After complaining  about the air conditioning for the second time (“ah, meu ventinho – my little wind,” he said), he went on with little interruption, performing “De Conversa Em Conversa” and “Retrato em Branco e Preto” drawing much applause when he started “Ligia,” a tune from the lesser-known The Best Of Two Worlds, a Stan Getz disc that also featured Miúcha (Bebel Gilberto's mother and sister to Chico Buarque), who was married with Gilberto at the time.


After a string of obscure numbers, he closed the set with “Samba do Avião” and “Desafinado,” returning to the stage for an encore that included a Portuguese-language version to Irving Berlin's “God Bless America,” a song he said he used to “sing when I was a boy in Brazil” and of course “The Girl  From Ipanema,” which finally closed the almost two-hour set.


As he nears his 77th birthday, Gilberto still is in great shape his voice and guitar style never faltered for a single moment. It was also a treat to truly hear him – one could hear a pin drop, and the hall's acoustics seem almost designed for having the bossa pioneer on its stage. He in turn seemed to take great pleasure in being on the stage that he – making his Carnegie debut more than four decades ago – helped launch the musical phenomenon that has endured.