Though guitarist and vocalist João Gilberto is acknowledged as the father of bossa nova, the song-“Chega de Saudade”-with which he ignited what would become a global bossa craze was created not by Gilberto, but by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Morares. On the flip side of Gilberto’s 1958 recording of “Chega de Saudade” was his own “Bim Bom” (inspired by a passing gaggle of washerwomen).
So it can be considered near-equally seminal-and it is with “Bim Bom” that vocalist Ithamara Koorax and guitarist Juarez Moreira open this first-ever complete collection of Gilberto’s compositions. They number a mere 11, written across two decades between the early ’50s and early ’70s. Yet together they capture a vital slice of Brazilian jazz history, defining a visionary genius who, as producer (and longtime intimate of the reclusive Gilberto) Arnaldo DeSouteiro notes, “inspired a complete revolution in Brazilian music, in terms of rhythm, melody and harmony.” Paying absolute respect to Gilberto, DeSouteiro was meticulous with regard to tempos and keys as he guided Koorax and Moreira through these 12 tracks (the 12th an English-language version of “Hô-Bá-Lá-Lá” crafted for Sylvia Telles in 1960).
Koorax, arguably Brazil’s finest contemporary jazz vocalist, and Moreira, a guitarist who can fairly be recognized as the João Gilberto of his generation, respond in kind. A better trio to pay such beautiful and integral homage to Gilberto could not likely be assembled. Bim Bom is not only an album of gloriously elegant reverence but also a recording of essential importance.