Prentiss Riddle: Music

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Prentiss Riddle

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MPB geekery

I'm getting an undeserved reputation among Brazilian friends and friends-of-friends as an expert on Brazilian popular music, or MPB as it's called, thanks to a modest CD collection and a lot of Googling.

Like many gringos over the past 40 years, I was introduced to Brazilian music by Getz/Gilberto, the extremely influential 1964 collaboration between American sax legend Stan Getz and Brazilian bossa nova star João Gilberto. That was the record that put bossa nova into every jazz musician's bag of tricks and set the stage for other Brazilian exports to follow.

Getz/Gilberto The Best of Two Worlds

Getz and Gilberto reunited in 1975 for a second release entitled The Best of Two Worlds. Critics don't seem to care for it much but it continues to suit my lowbrow ears just fine, especially a bilingual rendition of Tom Jobim's Águas de Março/Waters of March which begins to get across the lyrical as well as musical beauty of the bossa nova repertoire.

There's a curious story about the two Getz/Gilberto collaborations. In each case Gilberto brought along his then wife to sing in Portuguese and beautifully accented English. Neither was a professional singer but the record launched each of them into a successful musical career. The first was Astrud Gilberto, the second the slightly less well known Miúcha. Who knows what would have happened had there been a third Getz/Gilberto collaboration and a third wife? :-)

(Miúcha turns up in another connection. She is the sister of MPB giant Chico Buarque and she and João Gilberto are the parents of Bebel Gilberto, a young singer who has inherited her parents' vocal talents and recently had a big hit (as such things go) with a lightly techno-tinged update of bossa nova, Tanto Tempo. (Curiously, Bebel Gilberto seems to be relatively unknown in Brazil, or at least none of my Brazilian friends know her.) So Miúcha is at the center of a Brazilian music dynasty that extends in all directions.)

Getz and Gilberto were the extent of my knowledge of Brazilian music back in high school. Later I got exposed to the broader scope of MPB -- more recent artists such as Caetano Veloso, Milton Nascimento, etc. -- when I arrived at UT and tuned into Horizontes, the local radio show which I think deserves more credit than anything else for turning Austin into fertile ground for Latin music. More on that another day.

music 2003.10.07 link