Features/Interviews (PP)

‘Bossa Nova with Strings’ (Cadogan Hall, 21 November, 2021 EFG LJF)

The Jazz Repertory Company’s latest show, Bossa Nova with Strings, will be premiered at London’s Cadogan Hall on Sunday 21 November. It promises to be a night of glittering variety. As well as songs from the repertoire of Frank Sinatra and Doris Day, many of them beautiful compositions by Antônio Carlos Jobim, there will also be tunes from Stan Getz, taken from his remarkable period working with an orchestra in the early 1960s. The concert is on the closing night of the 2021 EFG London Jazz Festival. Feature by Martin Chilton.

Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim in 1967. Photo credit: (*)

“The evening will be like one of the old London Palladium variety shows, where there is always something interesting coming along in quick order,” says Richard Pite, drummer and music director of The Jazz Repertory Company. “You don’t get to hear this stuff very often with 16 strings and a harp. Although it is not a conventional big band, the music will be presented with unusual orchestration: there are strings, four bass flutes, French horn and trombone are featured heavily – and there is even a harpsichord in one number.”

In the concert Iain Mackenzie returns in the role of Sinatra, Georgina Jackson performs as Doris Day, Brazilian Gui Tavares takes on the role of Jobim, while tenor saxophonist Mark Crooks recreates the music of Getz, all accompanied by a big band and sumptuous strings. Pete Long is directing the concert which also has violinist Charles Mutter, leader of the BBC Concert Orchestra, overseeing the strings.

Bossa Nova – a description that translated into English as “new trend” – originated in Brazil and the music’s delicate melodies, lush harmonies and subtle syncopated rhythms was a huge influence on popular music around the world. “The impact of Bossa Nova, which actually hit America 60 years ago this year, was so intense it was similar to the Hawaiian craze in the 1930s,” explains Pite. “The public went nuts for it and pretty much everybody started incorporating Bossa Nova and Brazilian music into their mix. All the biggest stars of the day, whether they worked in jazz, rock or pop, dipped their feet in this vibrant new music. Sinatra and Day both did Bossa Nova albums that were hugely successful.”

Gui Tavares. Publicity photo

Pite says that the 1967 album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim “still has a lot of resonance today”. That masterpiece featured some of the greatest compositions from Jobim, a classically trained Rio De Janeiro-born pianist and guitarist, including Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Corcovado), Meditation (Meditação) and How Insensitive (Insensatez). “We’ve been fortunate in getting hold of a real live Brazilian, who is residing in London at the moment,” adds Pite. “Gui sings and plays guitar and doesn’t look dissimilar to Tom Jobim. We got lucky.”

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Day also covered those three Jobim classics – along with a lovely version of Desafinado – on her 1965 Bossa Nova album Latin for Lovers. Songs from that record will feature in Jackson’s performance. “We needed somebody who could get into the spirit of the way Day sang these songs and Georgina does it very well,” says Pite.

Although jazz maestro Getz proved he could master the sinuous, caressing melodies of Bossa Nova with his 1964 album Getz/Gilberto, a collaboration with Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto that featured Jobim on piano and the gorgeous vocals of Astrud Gilberto on The Girl from Ipanema, the Cadogan Hall concert will actually focus on versions of songs on two of Getz’s classic orchestrated albums for Verve Records, 1961’s Focus and 1964’s Reflections. “Even though Getz was a big star and associated with that Bossa Nova craze, the music we are doing with Getz covers his wonderful tunes with strings,” says Pite.

“We have the orchestral power to do it, and it also allows us to change the flavour of the music during the concert, adding a bit of different colour to change the tempo and feel of the evening’s music.”

Although the pandemic has presented its own challenges for The Jazz Repertory Company, which has put on more than 30 great shows at Cadogan Hall, including hit concerts recreating Benny Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall gig, they recognise that an evening of sun-soaked Bossa Nova will lift everyone’s spirits this November.

The phenomenal success of The Girl from Ipanema lit the fuse for Bossa Nova fever in the 1960s and the song is certain to be one of the highlights of the show. “You might get ripped limb from limb if you didn’t do that song,” jokes Pite. “We’ll certainly be doing The Girl from Ipanema, with a version that features both Gui singing in Portuguese as well as Iain singing as Sinatra.”

(*) Source of photo: Sounds of the Sixties Reddit Group. Permission sought.

Bossa Nova with Strings is at 7pm on Sunday 21 November at Cadogan Hall, London

LINKS: Bookings at Cadogan Hall

Jazz Repertory Company website

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