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POP MUSIC | WORLD MUSIC SPOTLIGHT

It must run in the family

Bebel Gilberto blazes her own trail while recalling her father's bossa nova sound.

June 27, 2004|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Good genes are unquestionably a factor in the singing of Bebel Gilberto, the daughter of the great bossa nova singer-guitarist Joao Gilberto. "Bebel Gilberto" (Six Degrees) is her second album, following 2000's well-received "Tanto Tempo" as well as a remixed version released a year later.

The younger Gilberto's material often differs from the floating bossa nova rhythms that her father was instrumental in creating. But when she dips into the family stylistic heritage in tunes such as her own "All Around," her soft, insinuating sound immediately recalls her familial roots, just as Brazilian singer Maria Rita's vocals often re- call those of her mother, Elis Regina.

Beyond the similarities, however, Gilberto has made an ambitious leap into the establishment of her own identity by writing or co-writing nine of the 12 songs on the album. The remaining selections include tunes by Carlinhos Brown and another second-generation team -- Pedro Baby and Daniel Jobim. Some work well, some less so, but the better material indicates that she's opened a path that is her own, and uniquely worth traveling.

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Sampling the sizzle that is Brazil

Brazil's rich musical caldron is continuously simmering with invigorating musical sounds. Here are a few of the more attractive new releases.

Vinicius Cantuaria

"Horse and Fish"

(Bar None Records)

Cantuaria, whose background as a percussionist invests everything he does as a singer and guitarist with persistent rhythmic energy, identifies his primary inspirations as Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Bill Evans and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Like each of those classic figures, his music juxtaposes a cool, engaging exterior with burning inner fire. Singing songs by Jobim, Gilberto Gil and Roberto Menescal, as well as some originals, he extracts bossa nova from its current lounge music ghetto. His percussion section -- led by the superb Paulo Braga -- produces an irresistible, body-moving swing. On slower tunes -- a darkly intimate reading of Jobim's "Ligia," for example -- he uses his electric guitar to generate striking, emotionally impactive dissonances. A marvelous outing by an ever-seeking, inventive musical imagination.

Orquestra Popular de Camara

"Orquestra Popular de Camara" (Adventure Music)

Imagine a 12-piece ensemble that includes multiple percussion instruments, various flutes and strings, voice, piano, bass, and guitars in differing combinations, and playing that comes from a Brazilian source but refuses to be limited by boundaries of genre, style or national origin. That would almost but not quite describe the mesmerizing music of this marvelous ensemble. Rhythms leap in all directions, sometimes referencing the samba a forro, slipping just as easily into buoyant offbeat meters such as 11/4. Soaring through the lush instrumental textures -- sometimes romping through up-tempos, sometimes arching through ethereal ballads -- the wordless voice of Monica Salmaso adds gripping emotional intensity to virtually every piece. Orquestra Popular de Camara has not appeared in the Southland; listening to this remarkable recording one can only wonder how soon one of our performing arts organizations will discover this outstanding musical collective.

Joao Gilberto

"Joao Gilberto in Tokyo"

(Verve Records)

Back to the source. Just as it's possible to hear echoes of Charlie Parker in virtually every aspect of post-'50s jazz, Gilberto's presence is almost unavoidable in post-'50s Brazilian music. (And why would anyone want to avoid it, anyhow?) Although his live performances can be uneven or worse (as Hollywood Bowl fans found out last summer), at his best he is still an incomparable joy to hear. There are a few less familiar items in this set, recorded last September at Tokyo's International Forum Hall. But most -- "Meditacao," "Wave," "Corcovado," "Rosa Morena" -- are classics. And what's fascinating are the subtle variations in Gilberto's blending of guitar and voice -- revolutionary when he first began to play, still an area in which he roves freely across rhythmic hazards, inevitably bringing everything together. Like all his voice and guitar recordings, this is a must-have example of a great artist at work.

Various artists

Pure Brazil: "Samba Soul Groove"

Pure Brazil: "Girls From Ipanema"

Pure Brazil: "Caipirinha"

Pure Brazil: "Feijoada"

Pure Brazil: "Bossa 4 Two"

Pure Brazil: "Samba Social Club"

(Planet Rhythm)

Six collections of Brazilian music, each with a theme: hot samba rhythms in "Samba Soul Groove" and "Samba Social Club," bossa nova in "Girls From Ipanema" and "Bossa 4 Two," and classic selections in "Caipirinha" and "Feijoada" (which include recipes for the intoxicating cachaca-based cocktail and the tasty rice and beans dish). The performances include virtually every imaginable major (and minor) Brazilian performer: Caetano Veloso, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Elis Regina, Beth Carvalho, Chico Buarque, Jorge Ben, Gal Costa and dozens of others. Six more CDs are scheduled for release in the near future, the entire set providing an affordable introduction to the entrancing soundscape of Brazil.

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