In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, a new fusion of samba and jazz was born in Brazil. This music came to be known as Bossa Nova (“new trend” in Portuguese). In its purest form, bossa nova consists of a classical guitar played without a pick and laying the music for the vocals. Larger ensembles use piano and some percussion to produce a very relaxed, swaying rhythm. We’ve all heard the style (and in case you’re not sure, I’m sure you can all recognize this standard “the girl from Ipanema”). Among the pioneers of this genre was Antonio Carlos Jobim and it is his son, Paulo Jobim (guitar), grandson, Daniel Jobim (piano), and long time collaborator, Paulo Braga (percussion), that accompany Milton Nascimento. Mr. Nascimento is himself a legend of bossa nova and a Grammy award-winning artist. With this in mind, I was very excited to attend this concert.
The crowd at Massey Hall was upbeat and full of anticipation for this performance and I can honestly say that the act did not disappoint. A fear of mine was how much of this ‘elevator music’ could I handle, however, it really is difficult to not be caught up in the addictive rhythm of bossa nova. The stage had a very simple set up, just the musicians at their instruments creating music which is actually quite fitting for the feel of the music. Even Mr. Nascimento was very calm and relaxed on stage, limiting his movements to playful interactions with his band. Among the most enjoyable parts was simply the sound of his voice (here’s a taste). His voice is really a treat for music lovers in general.
I went in expecting to hear a full concert of a certain kind of bossa nova (I suppose it could be called the mainstream sound) but was surprised to hear songs with a much different sound. As my friend put it, it was almost like listening to the radio at times. What this meant is that some of the songs in the set did indeed sound like modern soul music. While still nice in sound, it was something that for the bossa nova novice (like myself) I could have done without. Still, the material was well balanced and the concert was extremely enjoyable as a whole. One thing I must warn about is that Mr. Nascimento’s singing is not overpowering and blends almost perfectly into the music. This is the style of the genre but does make distinguishing lyrics a little difficult at times. It is easy to understand the appeal of Milton Nascimento and bossa nova as a whole. After a long week of work this was the perfect concert to just sit back, enjoy and unwind to.
Hasta la proxima.