Album Notes by Ricardo Pessanha: The year 2000 couldn't have had a better start for music lovers all over the globe. The artist who revolutionized Brazilian popular music, bossa nova pope João Gilberto, launched a new album almost a decade after his last studio album (João - 1991). For his long-awaited return, João Gilberto invited no other than Caetano Veloso, his most accomplished and faithful follower, to direct the production of João Voz e Violão.
The result of this natural association is evident on the 10 tracks of João Voz e Violão, a CD that includes songs Gilberto has never recorded before and new renditions of bossa nova standards. João Voz e Violão is the first album to capture Gilberto's soft vocals and his now mythical guitar beat in studio without the accompaniment of any other instrument.
No manipulation, no studio tricks were used in the making of this album. Gilberto told sound engineer Moogie Canázio (the man in charge of recording João Voz e Violão as well as Caetano Veloso's two latest records) that this is the only record of his he listens to.
With mixed feelings that range from euphoria to modesty, Caetano Veloso makes a point out of explaining his role in the birth of João Voz e Violão. "I don't consider myself the producer of the record although it makes me proud to be credited as such. In fact I was a kind of executive producer for Gilberto, not for the album," says Veloso, who has been nominated for the Grammy Award for his CD Livro (1997).
Gilberto's initial idea was to rerecord only songs featured on his first three albums: Chega de Saudade / O Amor, o Sorriso e a Flor / João Gilberto. Released by Odeon between 1958 and 1961, these albums have long been out of catalogue.
"I told Gilberto that a CD with new songs would be more interesting. In this sense, yes, I was a producer. And Gilberto accepted 50% of my suggestions," gladly comments Veloso. He was really pleased when Gilberto agreed to record "Não Vou Pra Casa," a rather unknown samba written by Antonio Almeida and Roberto Roberti in 1941, and the samba-canção "Segredo," a great hit in the voice of Dalva de Oliveira composed by Herivelto Martins and Marino Pinto in 1947.
Despite the fact that Gilberto accepted two of Veloso's song choices and he convinced Gilberto to record only two tunes from his first albums ("Desafinado" by Tom Jobim and Newton Mendonça plus "Chega de Saudade" by Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes), Veloso insists on establishing clear limits to his role in the whole project.
"It would be pretentious to consider myself the producer, because it was Gilberto who really decided things in that very personal, mysterious way of his," explains Veloso. And he was really surprised when Gilberto decided to record two of his songs: "Coração Vagabundo" (1967) and the more recent "Desde Que o Samba É Samba" (1993). "I never suggested any of my songs, but he surprised me with these two. I never could have imagined that Gilberto would record ‘Desde Que o Samba É Samba’. It was wonderful," admits Veloso.
Among the other highlights on João Voz e Violão are "Eu Vim Da Bahia," a 1965 tune by Gilberto Gil (another faithful disciple of the bossa nova pope), and "Você Vai Ver," a song Tom Jobim recorded with his wife Ana in 1980. "This tune is a masterpiece and Gilberto sings it divinely. His choosing this song was another great surprise for me," says Veloso.
Completing the repertoire on João Voz e Violão come "Da Cor do Pecado," a samba Bororó wrote and Silvio Caldas recorded in 1939, and the bolero "Eclipse" (Ernesto Lecuona). The first is a song Gilberto has been singing in his concerts for years and the second is a brand-new rendition for the tune Gilberto had already recorded in 1979 on his album "João Gilberto en Mexico."
Recording João Voz e Violão was a surprise for Moogie Canázio also. The sound engineer met a completely different person from the intolerant, idiosyncratic Gilberto about whom so many stories have been told.
"The crazy João Gilberto everybody warned me about is not the same guy I worked with in the studio. He recorded it all in two sessions. His only demand was to turn down the air conditioning because it was too cold in the studio. Working with him was very easy," says Canázio. But it did take a few months for the record to be finished, because Gilberto couldn't make up his mind about adding orchestral accompaniment. Even so, the recording itself was really quick.
"Gilberto enters the studio and just sings. In many cases we used the first take," reveals Veloso. "The record could have been ready two days after we started," agrees Canázio.
João Voz e Violão captures with high sound quality and aesthetic fidelity the art of its creator.
© Ricardo Pessanha