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Live from Carnegie Hall: Bossa Nova

Linked to our upcoming Voices from Latin America festival, this week's Live from Carnegie Hall kicks off a summer series in which we focus on albums recorded live at the Hall that feature artists and music of Latin America. The first in the series celebrates the 50th anniversary of the explosion of bossa nova in the US with a major concert at Carnegie Hall in 1962.

Artists: Miltinho Banana, Luiz Bonfá, Ico Castro-Neves, Oscar Castro-Neves, Carmen Costa, Chico Feitosa, Stan Getz, João Gilberto, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Ana Lucia, Carlos Lyra, Gary McFarland, Sérgio Mendes, Roberto Menescal, José Paulo, Roberto Ponte, Sérgio Ricardo, Normando Santos, Agostinho dos Santos Lalo Schifrin, Bola Sete, Percy Wilcox, and Caetano Zama
Album: Bossa Nova at Carnegie Hall
Label: Ubatugui
Date Recorded: November 21, 1962
Fun Fact: The concert was filmed and clips used about five weeks later as part of a CBS Eyewitness News show entitled "The New Beat." See the video below for some short excerpts.

Bossa nova was largely unknown in popular music circles outside of Brazil—and even within Brazil, as related by Gilberto Gil below—when a lineup of Brazilian music superstars—including João Gilberto, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfá, and Sérgio Mendes—teamed up with American saxophonist Stan Getz and about 15 other musicians to roll the lilting fusion of Brazilian samba and West Coast "cool jazz" onto one of the biggest concert stages in the world.

Presented by Audio Fidelity Records and Show Magazine, bossa nova classics performed that night included "Outra Vez" in the whisper-soft voice of Gilberto and Jobim's rendition of "Samba de Uma Nota Só." In addition to presenting the new sound to North America and to the world, the concert also gave birth to the iconic Getz/Gilberto ensemble—that included Jobim and Miltinho Banana from the night's lineup—whose debut release took bossa nova to an even higher level of international recognition when released in 1964.

In a recent interview with Carnegie Hall, Voices from Latin America Artistic Advisor Gilberto Gil explains that he remembered the reaction to the concert "because it was Carnegie Hall and that had a great importance for me, because it's probably the most prestigious hall in New York and in America. We didn't know—in Brazil—that it was going to happen in New York in Carnegie Hall and with that lineup. We found out about it afterward because of the impact that it had here and the whole reaction in the press and by the critics and by the people—the experts and the musicians—in America. The reaction was so good that we just could not ignore it in Brazil. Then we had a lot of press in Brazil, too. Somehow, it was a surprise for us, too, because at that stage the bossa nova movement in Brazil was not so big yet. So, the Carnegie Hall evening definitely helped the promotion of bossa nova in Brazil. Also, it was fundamental for the spreading of Brazilian music in America and worldwide."

It's apt that almost exactly 50 years later on November 8, 2012, Gil returns to Carnegie Hall for his star turn as part of Voices from Latin America, for which tickets go on general sale tomorrow, June 15.

Reaction to the concert from the legendary New York Times jazz critic John S. Wilson was mixed. He grumbled about the "forest of microphones," the amplification which "reduced the Brazilian instrumental groups to a monotonous mush," and most of the singers who "had little to offer." Gilberto ("several notches above this") and Bonfá (who made "a positive impression") escaped criticism.

A follow-up concert—reportedly in reaction to poor amplification at the original concert—was arranged several weeks later at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village where many of the same musicians performed.

For most of the artists—including João Gilberto and Sérgio Mendes—November 21, 1962, marked their Carnegie Hall debuts. But in the years that followed, all of the headliners went on to perform multiple times at the Hall, with Gilberto and Mendes appearing here as recently as 2008.

Excerpt, including concert footage, from Bossa Nova at Carnegie Hall—telling the story of the historical 1962 concert—made by Hana Vaisman for the 2008 Bossa in the Hollow exhibition in London that commemorated the 50th anniversary of bossa nova.

Voices from Latin America
November 8, Gilberto Gil
Live from Carnegie Hall Series
History of the Hall

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