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Bossa Nova

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About the Author

Ruy Castro grew up in Rio to the sound of bossa nova. He has been a staff writer, reporter, and editor for more than half a dozen major Brazilian magazines and newspapers. He lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


A translation of a 1990 Brazilian best seller, this history of what happened when "street samba" moved indoors and became an international form of pop/jazz is filled with material from interviews with performers and people close to them, but it does not include one piece of documentary evidence to support its claims to authenticity. This is truly a fan's book: chatty, enthusiastic, opinionated, and list-prone. Big names (e.g., Joo Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim) appear from the beginning, but artists known mainly in Brazil enter in historical order. Throughout, Brazilian journalist Castro makes clear the importance of bossa nova to Brazilian musical life and pride. The select discography gives online addresses for augmentation. Recommended mainly for active public library collections on world music.DBonnie Jo Dopp, Univ. of Maryland Libs., College Park Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"Recreates the perfect image of Rio during the height of Bossa Nova's popularity." -- Weekly Standard "Friendly, chatty, armchair storytelling."

For North American audiences, bossa nova was "a brief Brazilian seduction" before the British invasion of the 1960s, when it fell from the world stage into the background, where it continues to appeal. But in Brazil, bossa nova meant an innovative new soundÄa "serenely syncretic" take on sambaÄto accompany the country's other modernizations. A bestseller in Brazil, Castro's book might lack some context for readers here. But it is an energetic journalistic history with a lively cast of characters, set mostly in the beachside neighborhoods and nightclubs of Rio de Janeiro. Castro outlines the careers of, among others, pioneers Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto. Gilberto has always cut a curious figure: a poetic, idiosyncratic, charming young man, he became in later years a productive, exacting recluse. Enumerating poets, diplomats and critics who wrote music or lyrics, the narrative depicts a music-loving societyÄthe wide-reaching R dio Nacional was likely "the largest rhythmical democracy in the world"Äthat incubated bossa nova throughout its inceptionÄin the music of Frank Sinatra and Stan KentonÄand evolution during the composition of Black Orpheus. Bossa nova was finally released, full-fledged, in the instant classic "Chega de saudade" (the Brazilian title of the book, which translates as "no more blues"), and made its notable U.S. debut at Carnegie Hall in 1962. Having interviewed everyone available, Castro has at his fingertips elemental details, like the moment Billy Blanco conjured up a musical phrase on a bus, then ran into a bar and, over the din, shouted his creation to his collaborator Jobim, marking the birth of the song "Sinfonia do Rio de Janeiro." Photos. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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