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Pop Music Review

Bebel Gilberto Drives Bossa Nova Revival

November 17, 2000|ERNESTO LECHNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Although Austin Powers would have you believe otherwise, the bossa nova is not what it used to be.

The quintessential Brazilian genre is such a vivid representation of the time when it was created, such a perfect embodiment of the wide-eyed innocence of the late '50s and early '60s, that it could not possibly have survived into these cynical times without a crucial overhaul.

Enter Bebel Gilberto. On Wednesday at the Hollywood American Legion Hall, the sultry daughter of bossa nova pioneer Joao Gilberto presented a bewitching musical manifesto, one that for the last couple of years has concurrently been embraced by acts as disparate as Zuco 103 and Los Amigos Invisibles.

Gilberto is at the core of this new movement. In "Tanto Tempo," her superb debut album, she preserves the soft, lilting essence of the bossa nova while giving it a textural make-over with subtle touches of electronica. It's a delectable combination, and it has given the form a new lease on life.

On Wednesday, Gilberto pushed her coquettish-diva shtick a little too far, provoking some laughter among the enthusiastic crowd. Her greatest talent, however, lies in her ability to compose songs that capture the essence of the bossa nova. Her wistful "Mais Feliz," for instance, could have been written circa 1962.

But the singer's reverence for the classics doesn't limit her imagination. As an encore, she delivered the standard "Aguas de Marco," with the live drumming replicating the bouncy beat of a hard-core dance jam. It is this kind of clever innovation that makes Gilberto's music such a compelling proposition.

*

* Bebel Gilberto plays tonight at the Viper Room, 8852 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 10 p.m. $25. (310) 358-1880.

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