DIANNE REEVES / “Once I Loved”

In the midst of our winter is an excellent time to visit Brazil. Don’t you agree? For short-hand purposes, Antonio Carlos Jobim might be likened to George Gershwin as the major writer of popular Brazilian music. He composed a veritable dictionary of classic Bossa Nova songs and this week’s feature, “Once I Love,” is a particular favorite of jazz musicians. What is interesting to me is the wide range of interpretations given this song, really, really wide. Some passionately swinging almost completely eschewing a Brazilian lilt, others wispy and ethereal just oozing starry romance. The original Portuguese lyrics are by Jobim’s frequent collaborator and leading Brazilian poet, Vinicius de Moraes. The song was first recorded in 1961 by Joao Gilberto on a self-titled album. The song made an impact in America in 1965 when Astrud Gilberto recorded it with Engish lyrics by Ray Gilbert on an album appropriately titled The Astrud Gilberto Album. Even though the song is approaching the half century mark, it continues to be covered by both Brazilian and American artists. Unlike many other Bossa Nova songs, “O Amor em Paz,” which is the Portuguese title, is favored by instrumentalists as well as vocalists. Here are eight versions for your enjoyment. yoyo ma and rosa passos.jpg 1. Yo-Yo Ma featuring vocals by Rosa Passos. A classical cellist who has stretched his musical horizons over the last decade or so included “O Amore m Paz” on one of his most popular albums, Obrigado Brazil. Rosa Passos, who also competently plays guitar, mines the same, fragile-voiced, innocent sound that Astrud Gilberto staked out as “the” sound of women singing Bossa Nova. wes montgomery 01.jpg 2. Even though Brazil is famous for it’s guitarists, especially acoustic, it’s modern jazz, electric guitarist Wes Montgomery who has the most well known version in America. Montgomery’s penchant for playing octaves and his warm sound are entrancing. Many, many guitarists employ some of his techniques but only Wes sounds like Wes and it is a beautiful sound indeed. Available on a Wes Montgomery best of release called Compact Jazz. gal costa 04.jpg 3. Brazilian vocalist Gal Costa is one of my all time favorites. Unlike Astrud there is none of the ingénue about Costa’s sound. She is a full throated woman who sings with passion and an undeniable emotional gravity. In Costa’s version we hear the sadness of singing about a lost love—no, correction, Costa makes us “feel” the lost. This is from the album Gal Bossa Tropical. mccoy tyner 02.jpg 4. This is perhaps the version that is forever stuck in my mind. From the opening with Ron Carter’s hefty bass notes to the oceanic surge of rhythms supplied by Elvin Jones’ drums and augmented by McCoy Tyner’s thunderous left hand, this is a ringing jazz interpretation. I won’t argue that this is very Brazilian, but I will argue that this is great music played by a great trio of musicians who are totally in synch. Look for it on Trident by McCoy Tyner. miucha 01.jpg 5. Miucha is a Brazilian vocalist who is just below the water line of American sight but whose talent rises quite high. This is from a live recording which features Baden Powell, Carlos Lyra, Toquinho and Miucha— Vivendo Vinicius Ao Vivo is an exquisite project. gene ammons 01.jpg 6. The big, boss, swaggering sound of tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons digs into the changes and transform the song into something exceedingly funky. And you know what, it swings so hard we forget that it’s from Brazilian and not south Texas or even the Southside of Chicago but then jazz musicians are known for transforming material to suit their own vision. Mr. Ammons shows us quite a bit more than we normally expect of this song and it’s available on Ammons album Brasswind. ivan lins 01.jpg 7. Here is a remix of a contemporary electronic-flavored tribute to composer Tom Jobim featuring a veritable who's who of Brazilian vocalists including composer Ivan Lins. I wish I could tell you more about this particular recording but I only have download of Tom Jobim Lounge and don’t know any of the recording details. I do know that Lins sings without restraint yet maintains a balanced, cool interpretation. dianne reeves 16.jpg 8. Dianne Reeves is at it again. This is from her recent album When You Know. First she has an absolutely gorgeous instrument, a voice that is both steel strong and at the same time effortlessly soars. Second there is the richness of her phrasing, the rightness of her rhythms and the regalness of her dramatic reading of the song’s lyrics. Supported by the beautiful acoustic guitar of Brazilian artist Romero Lubambo, Dianne sings as though her short song were a feature length movie full of pathos and tragic perseverance in the face of daunting odds. I’ve said it before and this version of “Once I Loved” reinforces it: Dianne Reeves is absolutely the best jazz vocalist on today’s scene. —Kalamu ya Salaam    

This entry was posted on Monday, January 19th, 2009 at 2:01 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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