“Desafinado” -- which roughly translates as ‘off key’ or ‘slightly out of tune’ -- was one of the earliest tracks to have introduced the Brazilian-influenced Bossa Nova into North America’s musical mainstream. The blithe melody and breezy syncopated rhythms became one of the most instantly recognizable facets of jazz-influenced pop in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. It was Charlie Byrd (guitar) who actually picked up on the Samba vibe while touring Brazil, bringing the exotic sounds to Getz’ attention. This ultimately led not only to “Desafinado” becoming a Top 20 pop crossover hit in October of ’62, but also garnered the pair a Grammy win the same year. Although the infectious Getz/Byrd collaboration was initially presented as an instrumental, it was reworked during Getz’ association with João Gilberto (guitar/vocal) and Antonio Carlos Jobim (piano) for inclusion on the celebrated Getz/Gilberto (1964) album. This disc also spawned the Top 5 hit “The Girl From Ipanema”. Here the melody of “Desafinado” is further enhanced by the traditional Brazilian vocals from João, giving the song a more intimate and romantic allure. Another discerning factor is the intricate interaction between Gilberto’s guitar work, Jobim’s delicate keyboard inflections and the viscous and soulfully smoky tenor sax of Getz. A live version of this configuration is available on the Carnegie Hall Concert 1964 (1998) archival release, featuring Getz’ Quartet along with Gilberto. This is the same run of shows that produced the Getz/Gilberto #2 (1965) release on Verve.
“Desafinado” has also been covered by literally dozens of additional pop and jazz artists, ranging from the decidedly R&B rendering courtesy of the Drifters to the bop mastery of Dizzy Gillespie and violin virtuoso of Stephane Grappelli.