NEW YORK — Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gal Costa, Oscar Castro-Neves and Carlos Barbosa-Lima delivered old and new Brazilian tunes in an event at Avery Fisher Hall on Monday that, in many ways, was more than a concert.
The show, sponsored by the Brazilian Cultural Foundation, was billed as the 25th anniversary of the first bossa nova concert, held at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 21, 1962. On that evening, Brazilians Jobim, Castro-Neves, Sergio Mendes and Joao Gilberto, among others, were joined by American jazz artists Stan Getz (who was scheduled to play Monday but was convalescing from recent cancer surgery), Charlie Byrd and Gary McFarland in the first large-scale presentation of bossa nova to an American audience.
That concert was remembered vividly by some who were there. "It launched the movement, creating a stir that was felt immediately," said Castro-Neves, who was then a 22-year-old leading his quartet.
"It was a fantastic evening," said Mendes, who recently produced Sarah Vaughan's "Brazilian Romance" CBS LP. "It helped start the (bossa nova) trend because it solidified us."
Quincy Jones, who in 1962 produced Dizzy Gillespie's "On the French Riviera" Phillips LP that included Jobim tunes, remembered that "while the artists were nervous, it was beautiful because they played from their hearts."
However, for Jobim, the show 25 years ago was no thrill. "It was a madhouse," he said. "Many people played the same tunes. I'm still trying to forget it."
Jobim was also one who felt that Monday's show, though billed as a 25th anniversary, had no connection with the original concert. "The performance date was sheer coincidence," he said. Jobim did admit he enjoyed Monday's affair. "Yes, this one was very good," he said.
Indeed it was, as Jobim and his cohorts were in superb form. From the opening "Desafinado" by Barbosa-Lima to the closing "Gabriela," featuring the full ensemble--including Jobim's band of five musicians and five female vocalists--each rendition was sparked by keen arrangements and, unless it was an instrumental number, delicious singing, particularly by Costa, whose girlish, ringing grace, outfitted with a spring-tight vibrato, has been rarely heard in the United States.
Several numbers, including "It Looks Like December" and "The Girl From Ipanema," deftly contrasted Jobim's froggy, foggy voice, which goes from deep growls to paper-thin highs, with his female vocal quintet's lilting richness. There were also some suite-like arrangements, as on "Ipanema," that segued between the vocal ensemble set against flute, Jobim's whistling and pop-ish piano to a slapping rock beat, then more voices against dissonant piano; and "Gabriela," in which Costa and Jobim sang slow, steaming statements back and forth, leading to a roaring passage in which Jobim, Costa and the rest were at full tilt.
Costa shone on "Dindi" where her voice was diamond bright one moment, sultry and dusky the next, and on "Corcovado," where she injected a poignant sweetness into this already endearing, timeless melody.
Solo and duet guitar numbers by Barbosa-Lima and Castro-Neves--particularly the latter's "Berimbau," in which he switched between wild strummed passages and dulcet soothing string strokes--got the show off to a splendid start.
After the concert, Castro-Neves said, "We all had fun."