|Astrud Gilberto - Now|
|Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Tuesday, 04 June 2002|
Astrud Gilberto is more known for being the Girl From Ipanema than the wife of Brazilian jazz great Joao Gilberto. Shepherded by popular musical icons of the time, including Frank Sinatra and Dizzy Gillespie, the Brazilian jazz or bossa nova craze caught on with hipsters in the mid-1960s, launching the critically acclaimed careers of Joao Gilberto and arranger Antonio Carlos Jobim. Verve Records, in an attempt to capitalize on the good looks of Astrud Gilberto and the popularity of the “Ipanema” hit, signed her and started developing her career with the hopes of widespread commercial success.
This album, Now, is a work later in Gilberto’s career, at a point after she was dropped by Verve in the early 1970s. It has a sound that is unquestionably Brazilian jazz but also features urban R&B overtones that will remind you of Gil Scott Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and the early work of Isaac Hayes.
Silverline is a specialty record company fully behind the DVD-Audio format, which is evident in the added values on the disc. There is a mildly animated onscreen liner notes section, along with a speaker chart that sonically and visually explains 5.1 speaker setups. Not everyone who would like to buy this record fully understands how to get the most out of full-featured DVD-Audio discs, so this is a nice add-on. Sonically, there is 24/96 surround for those with dedicated DVD-Audio players, along with Dolby Digital 5.1 for those playing the disc on a DVD-Video player. DTS is strangely missing as an additional surround mode. Other goodies include artist photos.
Musically, Now starts off with a funky little number called “Zigy Zigy Za” that develops a tricky, almost march-like percussive beat thanks to legendary jazz drummer Billy Cobham. It all works out to develop a go-go groove that is nothing short of fab. Heavy-sounding organs and Shaft-esque wha-wha guitar work define the sound of the song. The most notable performance is not that of Gilberto, who has a buttery smooth voice, but instead is that of drummer Cobham and his percussive beats. Billy and the rhythm section syncopate all over the place, which makes for a crazy musical bed for Gilberto. Nevertheless, it works.
Gilberto does worse when singing songs in English. Tunes like the drawn-out “Make Love To Me” and “Take It Easy, My Brother Charlie” are just missing the style that makes other songs on Now winners. “Baiao” rallies as an upbeat track with softly spoken vocals that follow a sweet melody and gorgeous chord changes that illustrate why so many people love Brazilian jazz, across generations to this day.
The performance highlight of Gilberto’s Now is “Gingle,” which established a solid beat and then plays with the tempo teasingly. At the time, no fan of the beautiful Astrud Gilberto would complain if she wanted to tease him. “Gingle” is one of the few songs with any noticeable sounds mixed to the rear channels on the entire 5.1 mix. Unfortunately, a few choruses into the song, there is audible distortion in the large chorus singing the refrain. One would assume this sonic malady is on the original master, but it is even more apparent on a 24/96 DVD-Audio disc in a high-quality music playback system.
Now is a neat album that makes a stylish statement as hip background music for a party or for saucy listening sessions with your 5.1 music setup. The 5.1 mix leaves little to talk about in that there are barely any risks taken in going from stereo to 5.1. To me, the recording sounds soft, analog and dated, despite the added resolution of the MLP 5.1 mix on DVD-Audio. Few if any risks were taken to create a fully encompassing 5.1 surround environment for the record, leaving me wondering if I had just left the disc in “tri-field” mode on my Meridian 861 preamp. Astrud Gilberto’s Now is a fun performance, but it is not spectacular-sounding or wonderfully mixed for the 5.1 format. If you like Brazilian jazz, you’ll want to own this title. If you are looking for that one title to really impress your audiophile neighbor – this is not it.