Friday, October 23, 2009

"Bim Bom" - The Complete João Gilberto Songbook by Ithamara Koorax & Juarez Moreira

Celebrating 50 years of João Gilberto
Acclaimed Brazilian Vocalist Pays Tribute to Gilberto’s Prodigious Talents as a Composer on Motéma’s Second “Jazz Therapy” Release

For the very first time, all the songs composed by Joao Gilberto, the genius who created the Bossa Nova, are included in the same album.

And it's the first "João Gilberto Songbook" ever released by any artist in the world!

A celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the release of João Gilberto’s debut album, “Chega de Saudade” (1959), which included the original recordings of “Bim Bom” and “Ho-ba-La-La”.

Ithamara Koorax, acclaimed as one of the world’s top jazz singers, has recorded with such giants as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfá, Ron Carter, Larry Coryell, John McLaughlin, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and now she teams up with legendary guitarist Juarez Moreira, one of Brazil’s best musicians ever, for this historic project.

The liner notes by renowned jazz historians Ira Gitler and Alex Henderson detail the recording history of each song. "Ithamara is gifted with a fabulous vocal instrument, and the innate intelligency of how to use it to convey feelings from the heart and soul. A sublime set that could be called "music for unwinding," "day or dusk dreaming," or "loving." Ithamara is an enchantress," writes Gitler.
While 2008 marked the “official” 50th anniversary of the bossa nova – a style first recorded in Brazil by guitarist João Gilberto on the 1958 song “Chega de Saudade” (No More Blues) - 2009 marks yet another key anniversary: the 50th anniversary of the release of Gilberto’s genre defining debut LP, also titled Chega de Saudade, with which he widely popularized and in many ways epitomized the emerging bossa style with his distinctive guitar styling, soft, almost whispered vocals and enchanting compositions.

In honor of this great master, Brazilian vocalist Ithamara Koorax, in collaboration with top contemporary Brazilian guitarist Juarez Moreira, has recorded Bim Bom – The Complete João Gilberto Songbook, which will be released on Motéma Music on October 13th. Although Gilberto has been amply praised as a “legendary vocalist” and as the innovative guitarist who invented bossa nova, his contributions as a composer are often overlooked. With this tribute, Koorax and Moreira make clear that songwriting is indeed a valuable part of Gilberto’s legacy.

The CD features, for the first time ever, all of Gilberto’s compositions on a single disc. Koorax, who has consistently been named among the Top Female Vocalists in DownBeat’s Readers’ Poll, is formidable in partnership with Moreira, who is revered as a top Brazilian guitar master, and has worked with such legends as Milton Nascimento, Claudio Roditi, and Toninho Horta. Together they perform twelve tracks, distinguished by a graceful simplicity and a remarkable rapport that showcases both artists while elucidating Gilberto’s brilliance as a composer.

The CD is also notable as the second release in Motéma’s “Jazz Therapy” series, benefitting the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund of Englewood Hospital and Medical Center which partners with The Jazz Foundation of America to provide free medical care and screenings to musicians in need. Jazz Therapy (Volume I): Smile featured duo guitar masters Roni-Ben Hur and Gene Bertoncini, who launched the series in November 2008 to great critical and public acclaim, and sparked a Wall Street Journal feature on Englewood Hospital’s extraordinary program.

Bim Bom is the 12th solo release in Ithamara Koorax’s remarkable career. Well known in her native Brazil as a jazz-pop singer, she made her American recording debut in 2000 with Serenade in Blue. In the nine years since its release, she has received numerous accolades for her work. “Koorax is delightfully unpredictable in her music… embracing virtuosity, astonishing range, and volcanic vocalese,” read DownBeat’s review of her 2006 release, Brazilian Butterfly. DownBeat’s readers have supported her rise to the top of the magazine’s annual Readers’ Poll in the “Best Female Vocalist” category: she entered at #10 in 2000, and most recently, was voted #3 in 2008 (topped only by Diana Krall and Cassandra Wilson).
Koorax has recorded with such great musicians as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfá, Ron Carter, Larry Coryell, Sadao Watanabe, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Jay Berliner, Caetano Veloso, João Donato and many others.

Bim Bom producer Arnaldo De Souteiro has been a close associate of the reclusive Gilberto since 1979. He produced the tribute with a meticulous eye in regard to tempos and keys, in homage to the composer, while allowing Koorax and Moreira the space to create an intimate, improvisational “live in the studio” performance.

Ample notes that accompany the CD feature interesting comments about each composition. Gilberto has never before published a songbook, so the CD also serves as an excellent resource for guitarists seeking to master his material. “Although some of the songs may seem very simple,” explains Moreira, “it’s a false impression. They demand a lot of technique. That’s the main ingredient of Gilberto’s magic: to make very difficult and intricate things seem so easy and sound so natural.”

Koorax has her own special relationship with the music. “I don’t think of Bim Bom as just one more album in my career,” says Koorax. “I have always loved João Gilberto, and grew up listening to his recordings.”
In 2008, the World started to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Bossa nova, based on the date that Joao Gilberto (born on June 10, 1931, in Juazeiro, Bahia) did the first bossa nova recordings. Gilberto - known as the "Bossa Nova Pope", its creator and founder, a true living legend - did some very special concerts in 2008 in Brazil and in the USA (at the Carnegie Hall on June 22 as part of the JVC Jazz Festival). More dates were scheduled for Japan and Europe, but he was forced to cancel them due to health problems.

To celebrate the 50 Years of the Bossa Nova as well as to pay tribute to João Gilberto and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of Gilberto’s first solo album in 1959, the internationally acclaimed Brazilian singer Ithamara Koorax has joined forces with guitarist Juarez Moreira to record "Bim Bom - The Complete Joao Gilberto Songbook".

For the very first time, all the songs composed by Joao Gilberto are included in the same album! And it's the first "Joao Gilberto Songbook" ever released by any artist in the world!

The genius who did a complete revolution in Brazilian music, in terms of rhythm, melody and harmony, created a new samba beat, a new singing singing style (very soft, cool, subtle and charming), new concepts of harmonizing, and so forth. Antonio Carlos Jobim, one of the first to hear that "magic", was totally fascinated, and began to compose new material inspired by Gilberto's style, songs that basically were created to be sung by him. That was the beginning of the "bossa nova repertoire."

Following the release of his debut solo album, "Chega de Saudade" in 1959, which included “Bim Bom” and “Ho-ba-la-la”, the effect of Gilberto's revolution spread even more. Guitarists everywhere in Brazil were trying to play like him, to the point that the ones who learned the beat very quickly opened "guitar schools," at which they taught "how to play like João Gilberto."

Gilberto continues his perpetual evolution to this very today. Every time he plays one of the songs that he has been playing for fifty years, he does so employing new syncopations and new phrasings. Furthermore, everything he plays becomes bossa nova. That is why we can say that the bossa nova is João Gilberto, yet João Gilberto is bossa nova and much more.

Considered one of the top singers in the contemporary jazz scene, Ithamara Koorax has just been voted 3rd in the Downbeat 2008 Readers Poll for 'Best Female Vocalist' (behind only Diana Krall and Cassandra Wilson), and is also featured as one the best jazz singers of all time in the book "The Jazz Singers - The Ultimate Guide," recently released in the USA by journalist and historian Scott Yanow.

Koorax has recorded 11 solo albums (for the Milestone, Mercury, EMI, Irma, JVC and King labels), 15 soundtracks and took part in more than 200 special projects and compilations. She recorded/performed with such masters as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfá, Ron Carter, Larry Coryell, Sadao Watanabe, Hermeto Pascoal, João Donato, John McLaughlin, Jay Berliner, Marcos Valle, Dom Um Romão, Peter Scharli, Thiago de Mello, Edu Lobo, Lou Volpe, Jürgen Friedrich, Mario Castro-Neves, the Azymuth group and many symphony orchestras, having toured Japan, Korea, England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Czech Republic, Portugal and United States, among other countries.

In the 2000s, Koorax has received high marks from DownBeat magazine on several occasions. "Ithamara Koorax has one of the loveliest voices in creation," DownBeat critic Frank-John Hadley wrote in the November 2008 issue of the jazz bible. "Koorax is delightfully unpredictable in her music...embracing virtuosity, astonishing range and volcanic vocalese," stated Fred Bouchard in a 4-star rave review (about her “Brazilian Butterfly” album) printed in the February 2007 issue of DownBeat.

Meanwhile, DownBeat readers have been quite favorable to Koorax in the poll’s female vocalist category: she was voted #10 singer in 2000, #4 in 2002, #11 in 2004, #8 in 2005, #7 in 2006, #5 in 2007 and now #3 in 2008. According to renowned critic Thom Jurek, from the All Music Guide, "she is a diverse, adventurous, and utterly gifted vocalist. Koorax has set a new bar for jazz vocalists who come after her. As she does, they will need to embody many traditions and musical histories, root them in the tradition, and be able to comfortably combine as well improvise seamlessly with and between them."

"I quickly became a Koorax Konvert", wrote the famous jazz historian Ira Gitler. "Koorax is her own woman. She is multi-faceted and multi-lingual, comfortable in all situations and expressive in a variety of languages. Her range and technique are remarkable but you don’t necessarily take time out to marvel at her technique until later on because you are too absorbed in her musical message. Her powerful singing speaks for itself with celestial eloquence."

Celebrated as one of Brazil's leading guitarists, Juarez Moreira, besides a solo career as a jazzman, has performed with some of Brazil's top pop artists such as Milton Nascimento, Lô Borges, Beto Guedes and Maria Bethânia, while keeping jazz collaborations with Claudio Roditi, Paulo Moura, Nivaldo Ornelas, Toninho Horta and Wagner Tiso.

There is no shortage of artists who are more than willing to praise Gilberto; North Americans and Brazilians alike have often exalted him as a “legendary vocalist” and an “innovative guitarist.” But Gilberto’s contributions as a composer are sometimes overlooked—and with this historic “Bim Bom - The Complete João Gilberto Songbook,” Koorax, Moreira and producer Arnaldo DeSouteiro all do their part to remind listeners that songwriting has also been a valuable part of Gilberto’s legacy.

Ithamara Koorax & Juarez Moreira
Bim Bom: The Complete João Gilberto Songbook
Motéma Music MTM-30 (2009)

Simplicity Is Everything
Reviewed by Egídio Leitão

Little did the world know that when João Gilberto (Bahia, 1931) added his special guitar accompaniment and beat to Elizeth Cardoso's recording of Tom Jobim-Vinícius de Moraes' "Chega de Saudade," he was creating a mark for what would become known as Bossa Nova. The year was 1958, and that recording appeared in the LP Canção do Amor Demais (now also available on CD). Tough he had been recording since 1951 (he was crooner with the famous Garotos da Lua group), it was after Canção do Amor Demais that João Gilberto's solo career took off and made him the star he is today and also garnered him with the title of the Pope of Bossa Nova.

João Gilberto was more than an accomplished guitarist and singer. He also wrote a few compositions, a fact that is often overshadowed by his enormous performer talent. Since 2008 marked the 50th anniversary of that legendary recording that started a whole new musical genre, Brazilian vocalist Ithamara Koorax (Rio de Janeiro, 1965) teamed up with guitarist Juarez Moreira (Minas Gerais, 1954) to release an album with the complete João Gilberto songbook. Produced by Arnaldo DeSouteiro, Bim Bom: The Complete João Gilberto Songbook features all vocals by Ithamara Koorax and guitars by Juarez Moreira.

Both Ithamara and Juarez need no long introductions. She has recorded with artists all over the world, including Antônio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfá, Ron Carter, Azymuth, Eumir Deodato, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Sadao Watanabe, and is a renowned jazz vocalist. Juarez, similarly, is admired as a top Brazilian guitarist who has worked with giants such as Milton Nascimento, Toninho Horta, Simone Guimarães and many others. His 1998 album Bom Dia was critically acclaimed and had Milton Nascimento's endorsement as "a trip to paradise." When these two artists joined talents to record the João Gilberto songbook, the result could not be far from perfection. The music is great, and the performers honor João Gilberto with probably one of the best tributes he will ever receive.

João Gilberto's 1958 single "Bim Bom" is the album opener. An up-tempo bossa with simple lyrics, the song is very lively and features a fantastic guitar solo by Juarez. Ithamara's vocals keep up with the tempo, rarely giving her time to breathe. It's a great opener. The first five tracks in the album are primarily songs with full lyrics. Though they are all beautifully arranged and performed, I cannot find the right words to congratulate Ithamara and Juarez for the simple arrangement created for "Hô-Bá-Lá-Lá" (another 1958 single). Ithamara sounds heavenly in her breathy vocals, at times exhibiting an adorable laziness in her phrasing without affecting the enunciation at all. Together they capture the romantic tone of the lyrics like no one else, including the composer's version! To me, this has become the definitive version of "Hô-Bá-Lá-Lá." The magic created in this song takes me back to that scene in Black Orpheus when we first hear "Manhã de Carnaval" in the movie. As a bonus, the album also includes the English version of "Hô-Bá-Lá-Lá."

The next 6 tracks are primarily songs without lyrics. Though at times, Ithamara does vocalese as originally performed by João Gilberto in his own renditions, these tracks do not really have words. Here we have a chance to hear Juarez more prominently. He can more freely showcase his artistry as the accomplished guitarist he is. The duets he performs with his acoustic and electric guitars are present in most of these tracks. "An Embrace to Bonfá" and "João Marcelo" are especially memorable.

Bim Bom is certainly a well-deserving tribute to João Gilberto. What Ithamara and Juarez did in Bim Bom proves that with talent, one can clearly improve what was already good at the start. These two artists are in rare form and have done a superb job.
Brazilian Bim Bom & Other Celebrations
Ithamara Koorax & Juarez Moreira
Bim Bom (The Complete João Gilberto Songbook)
Motèma Music

With Brazilians in the throes of celebration over the announcement about 2016 Summer Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, it seems appropriate to review a bossa nova recording. Brazilian chanteuse Ithamara Koorax and guitarist Juarez Moreira do their own bit of celebrating the founder of bossa nova, João Gilberto. The year 2008 marked the 50th anniversary based on João Gilberto’s first bossa nova recordings.

Fifty years later bossa nova feels hotter than ever and Gilberto has become a Brazilian jazz legend. The bossa nova style with its laid back groove, slightly flat and syncopated vocals and sedate guitar, seems only simple on the surface. After giving Bim Bom several listens and paying close attention to Koorax’s vocals and Moreira’s guitar, I could hear that this subtle music sports its share of complexities. The musicians, to their credit, only make it sound simple.

Only a handful of tracks appear here from the breezy opener, titular song, so tuneful it sticks in your head for the remainder of the day. The guitar work alone on the track could leave a listener exhilarated. Then top it off with Koorax’s masterful vocals which treat the challenge like musical playground. After the complex rhythms, Koorax slows down on Ho-Bà-Là-Là and her soprano voice glides gently over Moreira’s melancholic guitar. Minha Saudade though with its staccato guitar and Koorax’s scat-style vocals and signature scream (sounds like a bird whistle), is my favorite track on the album. This track gets me out of bed in the morning and I am rearing to go after listening to it.

Other tracks include, Forgotten Places, Voce Esteve Com Meu Bem?, Valsa (Bebel), An Embrace to Bonfà, Glass Beads, João Marcelo, Undiu, Acapulco and an English version of Ho-Bà-Là-Là. The entire recording feels like a warm Brazilian welcome, and certainly this music sets a romantic, if not, a relaxing mood. The Portuguese language, stellar vocals and gorgeous guitar entice listeners. And even more enticing, the sale of Bim Bom raises funds for the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund and is part of Motèma Music Jazz Therapy series (


Head’s up, it another one of those records that just makes us say ‘goddamn”!, with an exclamation point. Koorax was introduced to these shores with some solid sets on Milestone a few years back. Here, the spotlight is almost totally on her as she teams with only a killer guitarist on a set that collects all the songs by one of the fathers of bossa nova in one place. Tipping the hat to Joao Gilberto while he’s still alive, you tell me this set isn’t going to set the play list at Connect Brazil on fire. Deceptively simply and completely heartfelt, bossa nova and samba are generally so subtle that the “sparsity” of this performance doesn’t hurt it at all. Top shelf throughout, this is a must for the world beater that just can’t get enough of that Brazilian vibe. Hot stuff. Bester News - Lushly Smooth
Ithamara Koorax and Juarez Moreira
Bim Bom: The Complete Joao Gilberto Songbook

(Motéma Music, 2009)

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto's release of Chega de Saudade, Motéma Music is set to release Bim Bom: The Complete Joao Gilberto Songbook on October 13th. Featuring the silky vocals of Ithamara Koorax against the wonders of guitarist Juarez Moreira, Bim Bom is touted as the first ever complete collection of all of João Gilberto's compositions.

The second installment in Motéma Music's "Jazz Therapy" series and a partner with The Jazz Foundation of America in the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund of Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, proceeds of the sale of this CD, along with Jazz Therapy (Volume I) with guitarists Roni-Ben Hur and Gene Bertoncini, will go to provide medical care to musicians in need. Fans get the added bonus beyond the glorious sounds on Bim Bom by knowing they are also helping musicians get needed medical treatment.

Bim Bom is downright silky smooth from the opening strains of title track "Bim Bom" all the way through to the sparkly "Acapulco." Bright and bouncy "Bim Bom" jets the listener straight to the exoticism of Brazil's famed bossa nova and into Mr. Gilberto's astonishingly smart songbook. With compositions that are tight and neatly drawn and a sound that is clean, Bim Bom is just plain plumy. The delicately dreamy "Hô-Bá-Lá-Lá" with Ms. Koorax's silvery vocals threaded throughout Mr. Moreira's seductive guitar lines is so lushly smooth that listeners might just have to recline just to listen to it.

Ms. Koorax and Mr. Moreira further drug the listener with the feather light "Forgotten Places," the plucky "Minha Saudade" and the sleepy sweetness of "Valsa (Bebel)." With "An Embrace to Bonfá," "Undiu" and "Glass Beads," Bim Bom is a treasure trove of delicious delights. Ms. Koorax's vocals weave effortlessly in and around Mr. Moreira's masterful guitar playing so that it is as if the two are intertwined.

Drawing on the expert craftsmanship of Mr. Gilberto, Bim Bom soars to dizzying heights with the stunning performances of Ms. Koorax, Mr. Moreira and producer Arnaldo de Souteiro. Bim Bom is proof that jazz therapy is both soothing and satisfying.