Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Review: Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto - The Best Of Two Worlds

More than a decade after their hugely successful collaboration classic ‘Getz/Gilberto’, tenor saxophone supremo Stan Getz and guitarist and genre creator Joao Gilberto decided in 1976 to re-unite and re-ignite the magic. Taking the winning combination of Antonio Carlos Join’s music and the musical arrangements of Oscar Carlos Neves, they were poised to conquer the world a second time.

Unfortunately for the duo, the musical world in the late-seventies was a vastly different one, with the current trends of more electric-based music in the form of disco, rock and fusion dominating. As such, on its initial release, the disc was completely over-looked and eventually largely forgotten. This though, even more unfortunately, is not some long-lost masterpiece worthy of re-evaluation and long overdue for good notices. It is instead a crushing disappointment.

Joining the two legends are a strong and eclectic band, including drummers Billy Hart and Grady Tate, bassist Steve Swallow, pianist Albert Dailey. Brazilian percussionists Airto, Ray Armando And Ruben Bassini also appear in order to add some samba colour to proceedings. Astrud Gilberto notably does not re-appear for vocal duties, largely in part due to her and Getz’s well-known affair, and so this befalls singer Heliosa Buarque de Hollanda, otherwise known as Miucha. Alongside the more than capable band, we get typically wonderful Jobim compositions such as ‘Waters Of March’ and ‘Falsa Bahiana’.

And yet, it’s a total mess. Getz, who should rightly be remembered as ‘The Sound’, possessing one of the most beautiful tones on any instrument, here is in a total slump. His sound is awful and bordering on the obnoxious, badly recorded and ultimately horrifically produced; for some reason the producer choosing to make Getz four times as loud as anybody else. Worse still is Miucha’s singing. Where Astrud Gilberto had under-sung, pretty much breathing her words, her style had fit the relaxed vibe perfectly. By strong contrast her replacement here decides some ‘free’ and off-key vocalising is the way forward. Not only does it not fit with Join’s music, but it just sounds terrible.

Ultimately, it’s the slap-dash feel that scuppers the record. With most tracks sounding under-rehearsed and most likely first takes, the afore-mentioned ‘Falsa Baiana’ cuts in loudly after a saxophone introduction and reeks of a tape cut-and-paste. ‘Eu Ven Da Bahia’ even ends with a voice clearly say “…felt good out there” before being cut off, enhancing the suspicions that whoever was behind this recording decided to do it in the quickest time possible, with minimal effort on making this a polished listening experience. All the more surprising given that this record bears the name of one of the worlds best producers and editors, Teo Macero.

Sub-par on every level, there are some relative ‘high’ points - ‘Ligia’ allows Gilberto full reign, his singing and guitar both top-rate, and the version of ‘Double Rainbow’ here being the clear highlight, benefitting from a really very good performance by Miucha. Ultimately whatever saving graces there are here, are due purely to Joao Gilberto - his beautiful guitar playing on ‘Joao Marcello’ contrasting sharply with the under-whelming poor form that Getz displays.

If you’re a fan of Bossa Nova, Getz or Gilberto, then you may be interested in this album, but truly it is the worst example of all three. ‘The Best Of Two Worlds’ was over-looked on its initial release, and frankly it’s best to leave it that way. Bearing the hallmarks of a poorly planned, badly executed and hurried recording, it’s one for die-hard collectors only, with just Gilberto stepping up, but even he is still marred by the lacklustre production. Apparently hating the results, Gilberto is best served anywhere else, and it is interesting to note that his 1973 watermark ‘Joao Gilberto’ actually contains many of the same songs here, and they are all undoubtedly of better quality. Similarly for Getz, this decade as a whole was just not a good one, whereas his work from the fifties, sixties and mid-to-late eighties is largely of the highest standard.

Most likely, given the animosity between them, recorded with Getz and Gilberto in separate studios, in as quick a time as possible, and spliced together at a later date (just as badly as the cover photos), it certainly sounds like it too. A disappointing missed opportunity, this really is one album that should be scrubbed from history.


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