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Joćo Gilberto
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Joćo Gilberto

Joćo Gilberto is a Brazilian musician and considered the co-creator, with Antonio Carlos Jobim, of bossa nova. He was born Joćo Gilberto Prado Pereira de Oliveira on June 10, 1931 in the town of Juazeiro, Bahia.

A self-taught guitarist, Gilberto moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1950 and had a stint of moderate success singing with the chorus group Garotas de Lua. However, after being kicked out of the band, he spent the next several years of his life in a marginal existence, imposing on friends, addicted to marijuana, but above all, obsessed with creating a new way to express himself on the guitar. His efforts eventually came to fruition upon meeting Jobim, a classically-trained pianist and composer who was influenced by the contemporary North American popular and jazz music of the time.

Bossa nova was a distillation of the percussive syncopated samba rhythm into a simplified form which could be performed on a single unaccompanied guitar, and Joćo Gilberto is credited with single-handedly inventing this technique.

While this new style created a sensation in Gilberto's performances at private jam sessions and informal collegiate concerts, his earliest commercially released performance came in 1959 as the guitarist on Elizeth Cardoso's album Canēao do Amor Demais, featuring compositions by Jobim and his lyrical partner Vinicius de Moraes. Shortly after this recording, Gilberto made his own debut LP, "Chega de Saudade". The title track, a Jobim composition which was also featured on the Cardoso album, was a domestic hit single, and launched Gilberto's career and consequently the entire bossa nova movement. Besides a number of Jobim compositions, the album featured older sambas and popular songs from the 1930s, but all performed in the distinctive bossa nova style. This album was followed by two more in 1960 and 1961, by which time he featured new songs by a younger generation of performer/composers such as Carlos Lyra and Roberto Menescal.

By 1962, bossa nova had been embraced by North American jazz musicians such as Herbie Mann, Charlie Byrd, and Stan Getz, who invited Gilberto and Jobim to collaborate on what became one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time, Getz/Gilberto. Through this album, Gilberto's wife Astrud became an international star, and the Jobim composition "The Girl from Ipanema" became a worldwide pop music standard for the ages.

Gilberto continued to perform through the 1960s, but did not release another studio album until 1968's Ela É Carioca EP, recorded during a period of residence in Mexico. Joćo Gilberto, sometimes referred to as the "White Album" of bossa nova, appeared in 1973, and featured a cool, almost mystical sensibility, his first descernible departure from the original sound from a decade ago. 1976 saw the release of The Best of Both Worlds, a reunion with Stan Getz, featuring singer Miucha, who later became Gilberto's second wife. Amoroso, from 1977, backed Gilberto with the lush string orchestration of Claus Ogerman, who had provided a similar sound to Jobim's instrumental recordings in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As had been the case for all of Gilberto's albums, the repertoire consisted prominently of Jobim compositions, with a mix of older sambas, and an occasional North American standard from the 1940s. On 1980's Brasil, Gilberto collaborated with Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, and Gal Costa, who together founded the Tropicalia movement, which drew upon the innovations of bossa nova in much the same way that late-'60s progressive Anglo-American pop drew upon the innovations of the Beatles and other early-'60s artists. The 1991 release Joćo was unusual in its lack of even a single Jobim composition, instead featuring tunes by Caetano, Cole Porter, and Spanish-language composers. Joćo Voz E Violao, released in 2000, signaled a return to the classics, with Gilberto revisiting "Chega de Saudade" and "Desafinado"; the album was an homage to the music of his youth and a nod forward to producer Caetano Veloso.

Evenly interspersed with these studio recordings have been the live recordings Live in Montreux, Prado Pereira de Oliveira, Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar, Live at Umbria Jazz, and In Tokyo.

While all of Gilberto's albums since Getz/Gilberto have been released on CD, the first three domestic albums were released in 1988 by EMI on a single CD entitled The Legendary Joćo Gilberto: The Original Bossa Nova Recordings (1958-1961). The disc also included the singles "O Nosso Amor" and "A Felicidade," merged into a single medley track to fit within the recording time of a CD. After its release, Gilberto successfully sued to have the title removed from sale as an unauthorized release of his artistic works.

Joćo Gilberto as a personality has long had a reputation as an eccentric recluse, and a perfectionist bordering on the neurotic. He reportedly has been living in a Rio de Janeiro luxury hotel for decades, refusing all interviews and almost never going out. He has been known to walk out on performances in response to an audience he considers disrespectful, and at times demands that air-conditioning and emergency lighting be turned off at concert venues. Yet he continues to perform regularly in Brazil as well as a few select overseas venues to sell-out crowds.