Though America caught bossa fever in 1964, thanks in large part to the mammoth popularity of the Stan Getz and João Gilberto union Getz/Gilberto, the Brazilian birth of the bossa nova dates to 1958. Three years ago, to salute its 50th birthday, Spanish actress/singer Carmen Cuesta teamed with her husband, celebrated guitarist Chuck Loeb, for a series of bossa-fueled concerts. Now Cuesta and Loeb have assembled nine bossa classics, plus two original compositions, for Mi Bossa Nova. It’s tempting to suggest that Cuesta’s clear, pure sound recalls Astrid Gilberto. There are, on certain tracks, hints of Gilberto’s delicacy and introspection. But Cuesta’s voice is far more authoritative and more widely emotive. Where Gilberto colored solely with pastels, Cuesta employs a far wider, richly hued palette.
Unlike so many of the bossa tributes that poured forth around the time of that golden anniversary, Mi Bossa Nova truly captures the essence of Getz/Gilberto, fully reflecting its tranquil, self-possessed magnificence. The similarity of spirit is understandable. Yes, back in the day, Getz/Gilberto made Cuesta fall in love with the bossa nova, as it did millions of other listeners. But Cuesta got closer than most to both the music and its master. In 1979, Loeb was appearing In Madrid with Getz, and Cuesta insisted on carving out time from her frantic performance schedule to hear the legendary saxophonist. After the show, she met Loeb and there was an immediate attraction. As their relationship deepened, her propinquity to Getz increased, as did her appreciation of his musicianship. Six months later, Cuesta and Loeb were married in New York. Getz served as best man.