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Top 10 Best Bossa Nova Songs Ever, For Now

The Bossa Nova is a beat, a style, and a genre of music that developed in Rio de Janeiro and gained worldwide fame in the 1960s.

Related to the samba beat, its basic rhythm has been borrowed and incorporated into modern-day lounge, house, and other contemporary music.

The ten songs below are classic examples of the Bossa Nova.

As you’ll see, the bulk of these early genre-defining classics were written by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

The orchestrations are remarkably uniform, although today the arrangements may sound reminiscent of elevator music, but don’t dismiss this as lightweight fare.

It’s harmonically and melodically adventurous music.


Girl from Ipanema
Garota de Ipanema

Girl From Ipanema - Stan Getz

Without a doubt the most famous song in the genre.

Written in 1962, Girl from Ipanema was awarded the Grammy for Record of The Year in 1965.

It’s been recorded by Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald among others.

The Getz/Gilberto recording features male and female vocalists, nylon 6-string guitar, acoustic bass, drum kit, piano, and tenor saxophone.

Give it a listen here.


Chega de Saudades
No More Blues

Chega De Saudade - Joao Gilberto

Written in 1957, Chega de Saudades is considered the first Bossa Nova ever recorded.

The acoustic guitar, bass and voice of Joao Gilberto is the most famous recording of this song which is known as No More Blues in English.

Notably, it has a unique song form. It is 68 bars long , starting in a minor key, switching to major nearly halfway through, which gives a good sense of momentum and movement to the beautiful folk-like composition.

The instrumentation is nylon string acoustic guitar, bass, and voice.

Give it a listen here.


One Note Samba
Samba de uma nota so

One Note Samba - Antonio Carlos Jobim

Another classic from Jobim.

This simple one-note repeated melody sits on top of a descending chord progression before a contrasting B section explodes with a flurry of notes running up and down major scales.

Originally an instrumental recording it features instruments including Grand Piano, Bs, Drums, Strings, and Flute.

The English lyrics were written by Jon Hendricks, of Lamberts, Hendricks and Ross fame.

It’s been recorded by, among others, Charlie Byrd, Dizzy Gillespie, Joao Gilberto, Quincy Jones, and Sergio Mendes.

Give it a listen here.


Wave

Antonio Carlos Jobim

Ac guitar, Piano, Bs, Drums, Trombone, Strings.

The title track from the 1967 release entitled Wave, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Wave, like many of these songs has become a jazz standard recorded by the likes of Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald and Mccoy Tyner.

Wave is an AABA form arranged in this version with brass, strings and piano. Unconventional chord changes and a luscious, leaping melody make this a must add to your playlists.

Give it a listen here.


Aguas De Marco

Aguas De Marco - Elis Regina

This duo, from 1974, featuring Ellis Regina (female vocal) and Tom Jobim(male vocal), is a delightful kind of call and response, with piano, bass, drums, flute, guitar, and strings.

It’s been called the most famous song in Brazil, its momentum.

There’s no real story line but rather a series of vignettes and scenes that flows along like the Waters of March. There are several English translations of the lyrics but the Portuguese version is my favorite.

It’s been recorded literally hundreds of times by different artists, including Luciana Souza, David Byrne, Al Jarreau, and Cassandra Wilson, all of which deserve your listening attention.

Give it a listen here.


Corcovado

Corcovado - Antonio Carlos Jobim

Corcovado is the mountain that rises above Rio de Janeiro. Another A.C Jobim tune was first recorded by Joao Gilberto and by dozens of artists since.

A warm flute intro line leads to a basic bossa nova beat on a standard drum kit with acoustic bass, piano, nylon string guitar, and a small string section.

Corcobvado starts in a minor key and works its way through several different key centers before resolving to the relative major of the starting vi(or imin)

Give it a listen here.


Triste

Triste - Antonio Carlos Jobim

Piano, Guit, Bass, Drums, trombone, string sect, and flute.

Another classic AC Jobim genre defining song.

Written in 1966 while prepping for the Lp that would become Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim, Triste nonetheless was first released as an instrumental version on the same album as Wave( see 4 above) Sinatra’s version with English lyrics was recorded in 1969 and released in 1971.

Give it a listen here.


Dindi

Dindi - Antonio Carlos Jobim

Another great example of how harmonically adventuresome these tunes can be. No three-chord progressions are repeated ad infinitum.

This song has been recorded by Joe Pass, Frank Sinatra, Dave Liebman, Natalie Cole, Wayne Shorter, Shirley Horn, and Ella Fitzgerald among others. Standard bossa nova beat supporting a not-so-standard song form.

Dindi refers to a place in the idyllic Brazilian countryside that Jobim used to visit and was penned for singer Sylvia Telles.

Give it a listen here.


Agua De Beber

Agua De Beber - Astrud Gilberto

Agua de Beber translates to water to drink or drinking water, another reference to one of life’s most basic needs.

Composed by AC Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes in 1961, it has a bluesy instrumental riff that is scattered and played and connects into each verse.

Famous recordings include Lee Ritenour, Astrud Gilberto, Al Jarreau and Ella Fitzgerald.

Give it a listen here.


How Insensitive

How Insensitive - Antonio Carlos Jobim

Another song that’s in the jazz standard repertoire of any working professional jazz musician.

How Insensitive has been recorded as both vocal and instrumental versions by such musical luminaries as Sting, Astrud Gilberto, Frank Sinatra , Diana Krall and Wes Montgomery.

As an aside, it’s been noted that How Insensitive bears a striking chordal resemblance to Chopin’s prelude in Emin. No shame there. If you’re going to borrow, do it from someone like Chopin.

Give it a listen here.


Almost all of these songs have instrumental, Portuguese and English language versions. Listen to each one and find your preferred version. Let me know what you chose below in the comments section below.

Exploring these songs should get you started on your exploration of the richness that is Brazilian music and the Bossa Nova is just one rather commercialized area.

Stay tuned for an exploration of the heart and soul of Brazilian music The Samba.

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