There was always something about the voice of Astrud Gilberto (opening tonight at Vine St. Bar & Grill in her first Los Angeles appearance in years) that gave the Brazilian bossa nova movement a vivid topping. She’s not up-front and brassy, like Gal Costa (one of Brazil’s greatest pop singers), and not someone who’s comfortable with up-tempo, overorchestrated stuff.
Her biggest hit here was “The Girl From Ipanema,” and if the song’s melody and lyric expressed a male adoration of the female sensual mystique--the tall, lovely girl in a bikini who walks to the beach as beautifully and inscrutably as a young doe--her voice deepened the quality of what was in that girl, a combination of reflective detachment somewhat at odds with that rare feeling of being vibrantly alive in the flesh. Her voice suggested the soft sensual immediacy of summer breezes--and something more enigmatically remote.
“She’s a Bambi out there,” said a friend and observer, and it may be for that reason--Brazilians are a pleasure-loving people, not prone to the development of North American crust--that her career, like that of her ex-husband Joao Gilberto, has been intermittent. In the last decade, married life (now done with) kept her confined to domestic pursuits in Pennsylvania.
However, “I still feel a responsibility to show the best of Brazil,” she said recently, on the telephone from New York. “I’m the first female performer since Carmen Miranda to have been an actual force outside of Brazil. I believe in destiny, as most Brazilians do--my career fell in my lap. But I’m concerned that so much of Brazilian music, which is so rich harmonically and rhythmically, is getting lost--in Brazil.
“Brazilians are very sensitive to what’s happening in the United States. Rock has been big in Brazil since the ‘60s, but I don’t think it has been a very good exchange, because Brazilian music is being neglected. I’m happy to see though that the (Stan) Getz-Gilberto collaboration is back on the charts in Brazil.
“I’ll be appearing with a quintet--piano, bass, drums, trombone and guitar. I’ll do original songs by myself and Paulo Jobim, and a couple of things by other Brazilian composers. There’ll be old stuff and new stuff. It feels good to sing in Portuguese--the language is so melodic. And the music is full of cheerfulness, which is true of the Brazilian people--even the poor people who live in the favelas. We’re very mystical, and very romantic.”