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EMI Bossa Nova Reissues: The Hits And Misses
Published November 4, 2008

By Ernest Barteldes

The 50th anniversary of the bossa nova has prompted a gigantic number of reissues from the era.

The 50th anniversary of the bossa nova has prompted a gigantic number of reissues from the era – practically every label which had material from its pioneers put the discs back on shelves as an opportunity to take advantage of the landmark. Among these is a five-disc collection from EMI (the label that carried the original “Chega de Saudade” by João Gilberto) that has little connection with the genre itself – although most  of these artists participated in the now-famous soireés at singer Nara Leão's Rio de Janeiro home (helping shape Brazil's musical revolution), few of the recordings here reflect that.


An example of this is A Bossa Eterna De Elizeth E Cyro, the sole collaboration between guitarist Cyro Monteiro and singer Elizeth Cardoso. The title is not exactly misleading – the word “bossa” is a common idiom for the English “cool” when it came to the musician's approach to music. Recorded in 1966, it is a great record of traditional sambas – the highlight being the hilarious “Tem Que Rebolar” (“You Gotta Shake It”). That could also be said about Joao Donato's Chá Dançante, a 1956 record (predating bossa nova by two years) that mostly contains  instrumental songs with Northeastern Brazilian influences intended for the dance floor (hence the title, which roughly translates as Dance Party.


More in tune with the movement are Eumir Deodato's Idéias (Ideas) and Luis Bonfá's O Violão E O Samba. On the former, the famed keyboard player takes many of the songs to the next level, adding even  elements of improvisation to  tunes like Jobim's  “Só Tinha De Ser Com Você” and “Samba Do Avião,” plus  a handful of originals played with the solid backing two legends in their own right: drummer Dom Um Romão and ace guitarist Durval Ferreira. 


Bonfá's disc is actually the only one in this collection actually made during bossa nova's heyday (it was recorded in 1962), and its style reflects that. It is a quiet program with sparse arrangements centered on his awesome guitar skills. Among the best is “Nossos Momentos,” a tune composed by the guitarist and Luis Reis. He also works his magic on “Copacabana,” written in the 1940s by Joao De Barro and Alberto Ribeiro that was often recorded by bossa nova performers (Joao Gilberto often includes it on his setlists) while making Jobim/Vinicius de Morais'  “Lamento No Morro” his own.


The only volume that is a bit unconvincing is Samba No Esquema De Walter Wanderley (Samba According To WW's Plan). On the liners, critic Franco Paulino complains that bossa nova “is growing older while most of our musicians have not made an effor