The Best Bossa Nova Albums of All Time

Whilst it has always been known as a melting pot of styles, perhaps no jazz genre sums this up better than the Bossa nova craze which arrived in the 1960s, mixing samba with more traditional jazz harmony. Join us for a round up of some of the best bossa nova albums in history.

Whilst this type of jazz was of course born in Brazil where it was pioneered by composers and musicians like Antônio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto, it’s popularity in the US – and wider world – was helped in no small part by jazz artists like Stan Getz and Frank Sinatra.

Whilst its gentle, melodic rhythms and soothing vocals have given it a reputation in some parts as lounge music, some of the best bossa nova albums of all time showcase an intricate mix of rhythmic invention and cool-school improvisation.

In this article, we’ve highlighted some of the most famous bossa nova jazz albums which helped put the genre on the map, as well as a couple of more modern bossa recordings.

1. Chega de Saudade (João Gilberto, 1959)

Often referred to as the first bossa nova album in history, “Chega de Saudade” (usually translated into English as ‘No More Blues’) showcases Gilberto’s unique style of guitar playing and singing.

The title track became a massive hit in Brazil and helped to popularise bossa nova, but another song on the album (track #1 on side two of the original vinyl) also entered into the standard jazz repertoire: Desafinado.

It’s a great early insight into a player who – 4 years later – would join forces with Stan Getz and bring the style of millions of Americans.

Whilst not one of the songs which became widely famous, listen out for his rendition of Maria Ninguém which showcases his relaxed, lilting vocals on a tune which was later covered in Spanish by none other than Cliff Richard.

2. The Composer of Desafinado Plays (Antonio Carlos Jobim, 1963)

Jobim may not have been a household name in 1963, but his most famous composition certainly was.

His debut album – simply titled “The Composer of Desafinado Plays” – is an introduction to his skill not just as a composer, but as a multi-instrumentalist bandleader.

Despite playing both guitar and piano, the album artwork and surrounding artwork focused on the former, billing him as the Latin ‘lover’. It’s his plain and simple piano work, though, which stands out though, on tracks such as Agua de Beber and One Note Samba.

3. Getz/Gilberto (1964)

This Brazilian-American collaboration between Stan Getz and Brazilian guitarist and singer João Gilberto is widely credited with kick-starting the Bossa Nova craze that took the USA by storm in the 1960s.

As the primary composer of this new fusion of samba and jazz, Antonio Carlos Jobim is featured on piano, adding an extra touch of authenticity to a record which pairs Gilberto’s languid, rhythmically dextrous guitar playing and singing with Stan Getz’s sweet tenor sound.

During the 1963 recording session, it was suggested that they record an English language version of Jobim’s ‘The Girl From Ipanema‘ and, as the only Brazilian present who could speak English, Astrud Gilberto, Joao’s wife, sang the song.

Despite the fact that she had never sung professionally, Astrud’s soft vocal approach suited the composition and the band perfectly, and the piece has gone on to become one of the most famous songs in the history of jazz.

You can read the full story on that here:

A number of Jobim’s classic bossa nova songs are present, such as ‘Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)’ and ‘ Desafinado’.

Along with Stan Getz’s short, perfectly formed saxophone solos, Getz/Gilberto wasn’t just a watershed moment in the history of jazz; it was also a critical and commercial smash hit, winning multiple Grammy Awards.

It also features in the top 10 of our guide to the 50 best jazz albums of all time.

4. Wave (Antonio Carlos Jobim, 1967)

Widely considered one of the best bossa nova albums in history, Wave showcases Antonio Carlos Jobim’s signature style of blending bossa nova with jazz.

Recorded at the legendary Van Gelder Studio in New Jersey (home of many of the Blue Note classics) with American musicians, it somehow completes the adoption of Brazilian bossa into American pop culture.

Alongside a full, lush string section, listen out for renowned jazz bassist Ron Carter and trombonist Urbie Green.

The recording provides a super opportunity to hear an original rendition of title track which is firmly ensconced in the standard jazz repertoire these days. You can get a taste of its many interpretations through famous versions by Sarah Vaughan, Johnny Hartman, Gerry Mulligan, John Pizzarelli and many more.

5. Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim (1967)

Any remaining doubt of bossa nova being a niche fad in American was put to rest with this 1967 recording which brought together the Brazilian father of bossa – Jobim – with one of the most famous singers and pop icons in America: Frank Sinatra.

Featuring a full string orchestra conducted and arranged by Claus Ogerman, the North-meets-South style continues with the choice of repertoire, pairing a handful of jazz standards (listen out for “Baubles, Bangles & Beads”) with bossa originals such as The Girl from Ipanema.

It was Sinatra’s first foray into the style, and his relaxed crooning is an immediate match for the repertoire. It’s perhaps no surprise that the album was a hit, losing out only to The Beatle’s at that year’s Grammy Awards.

6. Elis & Tom (1974)

By the 1970s, the stars of bossa nova were so famous that they didn’t even need surnames!

Elis (Regina) & Tom (Jobim) is a collaborative which features the Brazilian singer and legendary composer/pianist performing classic repertoire including “Águas de Março” and “Corcovado.”

Regina’s powerful vocals and Jobim’s beautiful melodies make this album a masterpiece of bossa nova.

Inducted in 2007 into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame, the recording in Los Angeles was a long-time dream of Regina and – at 14 tracks long – is a superb insight into the songwriting mastery of Antonio Carlos Jobim, AKA ‘Tom’.

Listen out for the lesser known but delicately beautiful rendition of Fotografia.

7. Bossa Nova Stories (Eliane Elias, 2008)

The best and most famous bossa nova albums may have come during a relatively short period in the 1960s and 1970s, but that wasn’t the end of the story.

A new generation of artists mixing jazz and Brazilian music come through and this example – by singer/pianist Eliane Elias – is just one of the highlights.

Released by the iconic Blue Note Records label, it marks 50 years of bossa and provides authentic takes on many of the classics.

Tasteful piano playing and lush string arrangements, along with that Brazilian-tinged singing accent, create an album which wouldn’t have sounded out of place during the original craze.

Thanks for reading!

Whether you are an avid bossa nova fan or a new arrival to the style, I hope this round up has given you a few ideas for further listening.

Looking for more from South America? Check out our deep dive into the Latin Jazz music, or head to our timeline of jazz styles for a complete overview.

4 thoughts on “The Best Bossa Nova Albums of All Time”

  1. I love bossa nova music and the airiness of it. A wonderful album deserving more recognition is an album by Rosa Passos and Ron Carter titled Entre Amigos. The singing voice of Rosa Passos is beautiful and Ron Carter’s playing as well as the rest of the band supports her beautifully.

  2. Thanks Matt for this great tribute to one of my favorite styles of Jazz. It has always been the type of music I have been drawn to. I agree with your choices and they indeed are some of my favorite Jazz albums. One album I would add to the list is “Jazz Samba” by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd. It seemed to me kind of a preview for the perfect “Getz/Gilberto” album. I did not know your first 2 selections however and I was glad to learn about those. Thanks again for your great articles on this Website. I have learned a lot through them. I also thank you again for the “Hard Bop Heroes” course which I thoroughly enjoyed.

  3. In 1964 I was in high school listening to Buddy Holly, Del Shannon, and the Beatles. One day I walked into Dahner’s Music Store in tiny downtown Mandan, North Dakota while they were playing “Get Au Go Go.” It became my first-ever jazz record purchase. There was something about it. It was “cool.” It was different but it was so easy on the ear. I had heard of Stan Getz. He did some background stuff for singer Jack Scott. “Getz Au Go Go” launched me into the world of jazz. I don’t listen to a lot of bossa nova. Every time I pull out the “Getz/Gilberto” album I’m convinced it’s one of the best jazz records ever.


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