New Internationalist

Bebel Gilberto

Issue 372

What does a Brazilian girl do when her father’s a legend, her mother’s a star in her own right and her stepmother is the original girl from Ipanema? She hotfoots it out of Rio, leaving João, Miucha and Astrud far behind, to wait table in New York and hope that the family name isn’t too much of an encumbrance.

In this case, it isn’t. Bebel Gilberto’s self-titled album (the follow-up to Tanto Tempo four years ago) stands very much on its own feet as a cool, summery blend of bossa nova and contemporary jazz. And with production credits being shared between Marius de Vries, Guy Sigsworth and Pascal Gabriel, Bebel Gilberto also shows itself to be an album with its own direction. It’s a case of Latin America cherry-picking the best that the North has to offer, rather than vice versa. Low-key electronic beats on ‘Aganjú’ propel, exhilaratingly, a bossa nova into Björk-ish territory.

Songs tend to favour Portuguese over English but, as the sublime opener ‘Simplesmente’ shows, the lush, breezy textures take Gilberto’s material to a new level. Although Gilberto takes the lion’s share of writing credits (including one, ‘O Caminho’, written for Cape Verdean diva, Cesaria Evora), the few covers come from talents like Os Mutantes, Carlinhos Brown and Caetano Veloso. Even here, Gilberto imposes a subtle signature of her own making.

Louise Gray

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