Track of the Day, World Cup Edition: Joao Gilberto, whatever I say about the man won’t amount to equal the personal admiration I have for him. This is a man, born in Bahia, who from a young age was unlocking the essence of oneness with the world. If Tom opened his eyes to the world, Joao’s music was what he heard in his brain as he reached nirvana. Joao’s music is the apex of musical zen enlightenment. In his best moments you can hear that every note, every rhythm, and voice is exactly the right one to choose, and in exactly the right quantity of musicality to achieve balanced perfection.

It has been recollected that Joao, when he was fashioning bossa nova, would lock himself in a room for days on end and play a single chord in a thousand ways only he knowing what tempo he was trying to achieve. Once he achieved that tempo, then he moved on toiling to discover a new vocal sound that did away with any superfluousness, and vibrato…he would choose to sing quietly bare above a whisper, this new voicing allowing him the speed to follow this new phrasing he created. Then to complete his sound pilgrimage, and to fashion the rhythm of bossa nova, he went to secluded spots and just practiced there in peace, observing his surroundings for inspiration. On one day while sitting on the banks of a river he observed women balancing baskets on their head, swaying to and fro. His first song “Bim-Bom” reproduced that rhythmic discovery…and became the first bossa song. There’s something very divine about his creation.

It was this personal routine, and dedication to balance with the world around you that gave Joao’s music its distinct brilliance. No one can say so much, with such simplicity like Joao. Its no wonder Tom Jobim was flabbergasted and everyone who listened to Joao in Brazil (or beyond) still struggle to unlock this vision. Its for this reason I chose “Undiu”, from 1973’s Joao Gilberto album. Its simply trance inducing, with one word Undiu and guitar, he creates all these variations of feeling, sound, and rhythm.

Somewhere this album, and the second half of Brian Eno’s “Before and After Science”, manage to reach the highest pantheon of aural sublime-ness I will probably ever hear. For me, this album captures that rare essence of balance. I’ve listened to other great albums that get to their “greatness” by reaching, or laboring their way there … here Joao shows you he utterly lives and plays there. Sometimes, when I step back and detach myself from the album I feel even more humbled… how can one artist grab so much emotion and beauty out of such simplicity. Frankly, if Joao had a religion he would be its Siddharta Gautama, and a whole legion of post-bossanovists and artists (J.J. Cale, Caetano Veloso, Brian Eno, Nick Drake et al.) were wise enough adherents/disciples spreading the gospel…

Further Listening:
– Chega de Saudade (1959)
– O Amor, o Sorriso e a Flor (1960)
– João Gilberto en Mexico (1970)
-: João Gilberto (1973)
– Amoroso (1976)
– Brasil (1980)

World Cup Predictions for the Day:
– Colombia v. Greece: Colombia (Winner)
– Uruguay v. Costa Rica: Costa Rica (Winner)
– England v. Italy: Italy (Winner)
– Côte d’Ivoire v. Japan: Japan (Winner)

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