Sunday, November 22, 2009

The nights get longer

Torrential rains and winter gloom seem to be the order of business for the UK as I write. Sunset is now around 4:00 pm and sunrise is around 7:30 am. Cold winds blow down the dark streets. Thirty one more days, each one with less light than the next.

In order to stave off some of the darkness, I turned to an old friend, Stan Getz, and his classic work with Astrud Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, The Girl From Ipanema. I was listening to the full length version on The Very Best of Stan Getz-Sax Moods. There is an edited version that leaves off Jobim's Portugese verse. The track originally appeared on Getz/Gilberto.

It started to play and as the warmth of the sun began to fill the room, I was struck by the simplicity. In our modern era the instrumentation no doubt would be augmented to make "a statement." Acoustic guitar, hi-hat, ride cymbal, acoustic bass, tenor sax, piano and two vocalists. If the drummer had more kit than that, it was just to get paid porterage as I didn't hear it - no side stick or kick-in of a section or fill. Just time on the cymbals.

And it's not just the instrumentation, it's the taste and restraint. Accents on the closed straight eighth hi-hat and the syncopated guitar carry the rhythm. The bass sticks largely to repeated tonics and dominants on one and three. This sets the stage for the vocalists and soloists to have maximum room for their generally lyrical interpretations. The piano fills and dances around the guitar. The ride cymbal makes its appearance during the solos and disappears as the head returns. An aural interpretation of less is more.

Intro - Portuguese vocal - English vocal - Tenor - Piano/vocal from the bridge and out. Five minutes and twenty six seconds of style and atmosphere.

Apparently, it almost didn't happen. Getz's label didn't want him to issue anything to compete with Jazz Samba. The singer, Astrud Gilberto had never sung on a recording before. What was even worse, and everyone who has ever been in a group will understand this, she was the guitarist's wife. How fortuitous for us all that João Gilberto had a wife who could really sing!

Dust off your copy, have a listen and hear the waves lapping on the shore as the sun warms you up in this season of increasing darkness.