Bebel Gilberto
  • Bebel Gilberto

In this week’s paper I wrote about the rare Friday performance by Brazilian singer Moreno Veloso, son of the legendary Caetano Veloso. It turns out he’s not the only scion of Brazilian music royalty in town that night: Bebel Gilberto, daughter of bossa nova pioneer João Gilberto, performs at Thalia Hall. Gilberto is touring in support of her first new album in five years, Tudo (Portrait), a sophisticated effort recorded in LA, Rio de Janeiro, and New York, where she was born and lives. As with her previous record All in One (Verve) from 2009, the singer continues to move away from the electronica-kissed bossa that made her an international star at the turn of the century for something more middle-of-the-road and less explicitly rooted in Brazilian tradition.

She had a hand in writing most of the songs, which lean heavily toward seductive balladry, and while something like “Novas Idéias,” a brisk samba duet with Seu Jorge, connects Gilberto to her Brazilian heritage, more often she’s pulling away from it. There’s a muted electronic club feel to her “Inspiração,” and she delivers a hushed take of the French mid-90s club hit “Tout Est Bleu” by Ame Strong. The album features a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” which follows the version jazz singer Cassandra Wilson cut more than the creaky original, and aside from the subtle deployment of bossa’s delicate percolating rhythms and subdued tone—mostly in touch rather than substance—it sounds like something designed primarily for adult contemporary radio; most of her originals take a similar path. It’s no surprise that some of the best tracks are classic tunes—Luiz Bonfa’s “Saudade Vem Correndo” or Jobim’s “Vivo Sonhando”—because as tender and ethereal as her own material is, most of her songs don’t resonate or linger like her earlier work.

Today’s playlist:

Curtis Hasselbring, Number Stations (Cuneiform)
Atomic, There’s a Hole in the Mountain (Jazzland)
Cesaria Evora, Mãe Carinhosa (Lusafrica)
Amir ElSaffar, Alchemy (Pi)
Isabelle Faust , Daniel Harding, and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Béla Bartók: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 (Harmonia Mundi)