Gilberto Gil restoring bossa nova potential at Town Hall

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Monday April 27, 2015

From The New York Times
By Ben Ratliff

Gilberto Gil Brings Energy to Town Hall

About halfway through Gilberto Gil’s astonishing concert at Town Hall on Thursday night, he played “Desafinado” (“Off Key”) by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça, made famous in 1959 by João Gilberto. It is an intimate and self-righteous little song — essentially, a man telling a woman that his music and his emotions are true and real and perhaps on the right side of HISTORY, even if she doesn’t think so.

“Desafinado” became a kind of monument for 20th-century Brazilian culture: a justification and defense of modern attitudes, exemplified by bossa nova’s inward disposition and use of jazz harmony. Mr. Gil’s version gave it close attention and also ripped a hole in it.

Mr. Gil, now 72, was surrounded by a small band whose members averaged about half his age, and their playing seemed to pick up an old and slightly mischievous conversation: After Mr. Gil ran through the song’s cycle of lyrics and started them again, Bem Gil — the percussionist, the guitarist and Mr. Gil’s son — kneeled on the floor and turned a knob on a digital pedal. A noise commenced, first in key and then rising out of it, sounding roughly like a boiling kettle, up and then down in a slow, single arc. At the end, the band took the song out on an extended groove and a single chord; the digital sound turned into soft, crackling hiss; and Mr. Gil sang wordless vowel sounds.

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