Bebel Gilberto is not “The Girl from Ipanema. ” Not quite: Gilberto was born nearly 40 years ago in New York and raised in Rio de Janeiro. She is, however, as famous as the woman, her father’s first wife, Astrud Gilberto, who first sang about the girl. In fact, in Brazil, you can’t get much more famous than Bebel. Gilberto’s father, JoÃ£o, is a bossa nova legend. And her mother, MiÃºcha, is another bossa nova superstar singer.
But like any pedigreed child, Gilberto — performing this Friday, August 13, at the 9:30 Club — finds it frustrating that constant reference is made to her lineage. Fortunately it doesn’t reflect poorly on her. Gilberto will not be a music history footnote — a Brazilian Lisa Marie Presley. Gilberto deserves recognition for musical talent all her own.
Four years after her critically acclaimed debut, Tanto Tempo, and three years after she hired remixers to refashion that album, Gilberto finally returns with a new studio set. It’s a lushly orchestrated, gently swaying album, featuring Gilberto’s sensual, soothing vocals. In other words, it’s not significantly different her first album. She sings more songs in English this time out (half of them — the rest are in Portuguese), and she takes writing credit for more of them, as well. The most noticeable difference, however, is a slightly quieter, more acoustic vibe. She says it’s a reflection of moving to a more grown-up sound. (Don’t you just hate it when artists think it’s a sign of maturation to slow down?)
As might be expected, some of the gently swaying bossa nova rhythms gently sway you to near-sleep. Skip over the midway track, “Every Day You’ve Been Away ” — the nearly catatonic pace depletes the abundant energy left over from the preceding track, “River Song, ” a polite yet penetrating original composition. But despite the languid pace of much of the set, the album does include several sprightly, jaunty songs, moved by refreshing tropical breezes. One, “Cada Beijo,” is anchored to the shore by rolling orchestration clearly, ingeniously inspired by George Gershwin’s “Summertime. ” And the album’s first single, “AganjÃº, ” written by another Brazilian music legend, Carlinhos Brown, is the best thing we’ve yet heard from Gilberto. It’s a peppy samba-imbued number, with warm vocals that keep coming like waves crashing onto a beach, and ribald percussion providing their dramatic undercurrent. Here’s hoping the song sounds as festive live as it does on record. And that she skips over, or picks up the tempo of, her slowest tracks.
If you like the Black Eyed Peas, you’ll probably like Ozomatli. But if you have since tired of the overexposed Peas, be forewarned — the same fate could be upon Ozomatli. That’s because, even more than the Peas, Ozomatli is pioneering the pop sound of the future, and it shouldn’t take long for radio to wake up to it.
Like the Peas, Ozomatli — boasting ten members — is a multi-culti party band from Los Angeles. It’s a bit less hip-hop driven than the Peas, drawing more influence from Latin and, especially of late, Middle Eastern dance music styles. And Ozomatli is more international — and far more political — in outlook, creating pop music highlighting the rich musical diversity of modern-day America.Â
After seven years together, Ozomatli is slowly building a following. The band is currently on a nationwide tour — it will perform on Sunday, Aug. 22, at Nation Nightclub — and if its latest album, the bilingual Street Signs, is any indication, the concert should be rollicking.Â Street Signs is not all that original: Some tracks are cut from the same cloth as Ricky Martin’s most recent Spanish-language work, while others sound similar to Marc Anthony’s English-language output. And then there are a couple — like the merengue mover “DÃ©jame En Paz ” — that are a little too eager to get club play by throwing in what seems like every musical trick in the book.
“DÃ©jame” is admittedly catchy, and the same is true with every track on this appealing album. It never really lets up, closing with one of the best songs, the charming “Cuando Canto, ” featuring Mexican ranchera-style vocal harmonizing. Overexposure may eventually dampen excitement over Ozomatli’s sound. And I’m not at all convinced Ozomatli is the band — it’s certainly not the best — to carry this blended contemporary pop sound to the mainstream. Until the sound catches on, Ozomatli is at least a pleasant, cutting-edge diversion.