Sultry Sounds for Hot Nights

In Portuguese, bossa nova means “new trend,” and this lovely Brazilian music swept through America like a caressing Rio breeze in the late 1950s and throughout the ’60s. Its roots are in the samba, but bossa nova is less percussive and more melodic, typified by the lilting, soft music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto, and Vinicius de Moraes. These infectious tunes can enliven any summer party, but they’re most effective on “a quiet night of quiet stars.”

Morelenbaum2/Sakamoto: Casa (Sony)

Vocals (Paula Morelenbaum), cello (Jaques Morelenbaum), and piano (Ryuichi Sakamoto) sound like an odd amalgam for bossa nova, but there’s a breezy elegance and gleaming polish to this 2002 collection. There are some guest musicians, but this trio are the unquestioned stars. They bring sumptuousness to the music without making it sound cloying. The best cuts are  “Bonita” and “Estrada Branca,” with Paula sounding angelic. This CD was recorded in Jobim’s (1927-1994) house in Rio, and on a piano he owned. One can well imagine the master smiling down warmly on these fine musicians.

Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (Reprise)

In lists of the best Sinatra albums, this 1967 outing is seldom mentioned, but it deserves to be included. Ol’ Blue Eyes sings “Dindi” with sweet wistfulness, gracefully glides through “The Girl from Ipanema” (with Jobim himself chiming in on vocals), and gets to the tender heart of “Meditation” without wasting a note. Claus Ogerman’s arrangements and orchestrations are peerless.

The Girl from Ipanema: The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook (Verve)

This collection features some top-notch jazz talent (Oscar Peterson, Shirley Horn, Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald), but the most satisfying selections feature the vocals of Astrud Gilberto, who manages to sound innocent and sophisticated at once. But you can’t ignore Getz’s tenor-sax stylings, or Peterson’s highly inventive take on “Wave.”