Stan Getz / João Gilberto

The Girl from Ipanema

Composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim / Norman Gimbel / Vinícius de Moraes

Song Review by

Bop saxophonist Stan Getz was almost single-handedly responsible for breaking bossa nova big in the United States. Classically trained jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd had toured in Brazil and fell under the sway of the burgeoning bossa nova -- an amalgam of samba and jazz influences -- movement there. He brought some recordings of the music back to Getz, who quickly went to work making arrangements with Verve Records for the landmark album that the two musicians eventually recorded in 1962, Jazz Samba. Included on the sessions for the album was Antonio Carlos Jobim, the legendary bossa nova guitarist, pianist, and composer of many of the album's songs. Getz and Byrd each went on to record more records in the bossa nova oeuvre, but none were as commercially successful as the 1963 hit Getz/Gilberto, with Brazilian guitarist and singer Joao Gilberto. That album included the Jobim-penned, worldwide crossover smash "The Girl From Ipanema." Long since a standard, it is amusing to note that "The Girl From Ipanema" did not include the famous sultry vocals of Gilberto's wife, Astrud, until the last minute. Indeed, she was not even credited on the original release of the record. Over the lilting samba rhythms and around Getz's cool sax lines, Joao Gilberto had laid down his Portuguese lyrics on the track in his trademark soft and simple voice, but producer Creed Taylor, sensing the commercial possibilities of the song, requested an English adaptation of some of the lines. Astrud, who was just along for the visit to New York, was the only Brazilian who understood English enough to sing the adaptation by famed lyricist Norman Gimbel. With no musical background, she stepped to the microphone and sang the words Gimbel had adapted (they are not a literal translation) with an authentic sense of innocence and austerity, the perfect mood for the lyrics: "Tall and tan and young and lovely/The girl from Ipanema goes walking/And when she passes each one she passes goes 'ahhh'/When she walks she's like a samba/That swings so cool and sways so gently/That when she passes each one she passes goes 'ahhh'/Oh, but he watches so sadly/How can he tell her he loves her/Yes, he would give his heart gladly/But each day when she walks to the sea/She looks straight ahead not at he." Like all of Jobim's compositions, "The Girl From Ipanema" aims directly at the heart and soul with lyrics that celebrate the essence of life, the Zen beauty of nature and love. One of the other composers of the song is Vinicius de Moraes, another legendary figure in Brazilian music. de Moraes had been writing poetry, music, and lyrics since he was 14 and was established by the '30s. He had collaborated with Jobim on a number of projects already by the time they teamed up on this song. The Gilberto-Getz collaboration is the definitive version of the song, with intimate, soft-spoken, and ultra-present vocals and a subdued rhythm section, but "The Girl From Ipanema" has been recorded hundreds of times. Notable among the covers is Nat King Cole's, from L-O-V-E (1965), which swings the rhythm, all but ignoring the bossa nova origins of the song. It is effective in its mellow sophistication, Cole retaining the intention of the song with his Americanized arrangement. Included is a great trumpet solo over a key modulation. Count Basie, on Our Shining Hour (1965) with Sammy Davis, keeps a Latin feel to the song, but adds a swinging, American big band style on the choruses. Ella Fitzgerald recorded a more up-tempo reading, with guitarist Joe Pass soloing throughout. But this recording from Ella Abraca Jobim comes off as light jazz. Oddly, it is the master stylist himself, Frank Sinatra, who stays closest to the original, keeping his improvisations to a minimum and singing it in an understated style. He even features Jobim himself, singing a verse in Portuguese off in the background, hauntingly. It was released in 1967 on Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Getz/Gilberto 1964 Verve
Verve's Grammy Winners 1994
Various Artists
Verve 5:24
Getz Plays Jobim: The Girl from Ipanema 2002 Verve 5:22
Novo Millennium: Bossa Nova 2005
Various Artists
Mercury 5:11
Pop Memories of the '60s: Hello Dolly 2009
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 5:24
Pop Memories of the 60s [Time-Life Box Set] 2011
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 5:24
Pan Am: Music from and Inspired by the Original Series 2012
Original Soundtrack
Verve 5:25
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