KEXP Documentaries: “Sirens of Jazz” – Astrud Gilberto

Each week the KEXP Documentary Team brings you a musical subject in the time it takes to play just one song! Our current series is “Sirens of Jazz”, with portraits of greats like Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Cassandra Wilson.  Today’s artist is a lesser-known vocalist. Astrud Gilberto was the wife of Brazilian bossa nova legend Joao Gilberto.  She got her first big break in the US in the early 60’s when Joao asked her to sing the English version of the Jobim song “Girl From Ipanema” during a Brazilian jazz concert.   The recording made Astrud into an instant pop star. And that version of “Girl From Ipanema” is still a classic, getting more airplay than any other artist’s.

Astrud Gilberto separated from Joao after that famous session. Many people think that current-day singer Bebel Gilberto (who sings many of the exact same songs) is Astrud’s daughter, but that’s not true. Bebel is Joao’s  daughter from his next marriage.  After leaving Joao, Astrud went on tour with saxophonist Stan Getz’s band, playing for almost no money, trying to make ends meet on the road as a single mother.   Her type of Brazilian jazz (bossa nova) became the new sensation… it literally means “the new wave.” And she continued to produce gorgeous hits in her shy, lush voice until 2002. Her work has been sampled often by today’s DJs and producers, like Thievery Corporation, Cut Chemist and RJD2.

Listen to this KEXP Documentary:

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KEXP Documentaries are created by Michele Myers. With assistance from John Felthous, Abe Beeson, Tiffany Grobelski and Mary Janisch. Executive Producer is Kevin Cole. If you would like to follow along more closely in the creation of these radio stories, we post research materials, songs and videos on our Facebook page and on Twitter.

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