Getz/Gilberto – The Story of an Iconic Bossa Nova Album From 1964

As part of our deep dive into the different styles of jazz, we take a look at a recording – Getz/Gilberto – which was instrumental in establishing bossa nova worldwide.

With hindsight, it seems remarkable that such a quiet and delicate album from 1964 would become such a big-seller, producing a smash hit with the song ‘The Girl From Ipanema’.

Despite going against the grain of the jazz scene at the time, it did – and has remained – a firm fan favourite.

By the time the recording was made in March 1963, saxophonist Stan Getz was firmly established as one of the most important voices of his generation. Influenced by Lester Young, the tenor player had light tone and expressive way of playing that made everything seem effortless.

A very melodic musician, even his most complex improvisations seem to flow in a way that was appealing to listeners who may not be die hard jazz fans. 

Stan Getz had already recorded several bossa nova albums with guitarist Charlie Byrd (of note: Jazz Samba and Big Band Bossa with arrangements by Gary McFarland), but no one could have predicted the impact and success of Getz/Gilberto with the tenor sax player teaming up with guitarist and vocalist João Gilberto.

The Father of Bossa Nova

Joao Gilberto was a pioneer of the bossa nova style that emerged in the late 1950s and is frequently referred to as “the father of bossa nova”.

One of his most important associations was with the composer, arranger and producer Antonio Carlos Jobim.

It was most fortuitous that these three musicians should meet and work together and this unlikely association would produce one of the most famous jazz albums of all time.

Stan Getz live in Sweden
Stan Getz in the concert hall (Sweden) by Kjell Lindgren, public domain

With repertoire provided by Antonio Carlos Jobim who also arranged the music and played piano, guitar and vocal duties were mostly left to Gilberto while Getz would allow his exquisite sound and improvisations to float above the music, offering accompaniment and commentary to proceedings. 

The resulting record has a light and airy feel due to Gilberto’s singing style and Getz’s tenor saxophone. The rhythm section stay politely and unobtrusively within their prescribed roles, and nothing is allowed to generate too much heat or excitement.

All the interest comes from the playing of two bandleaders and Jobim’s lovely compositions.

Getz/Gilberto: The Magic of Astrud

This perhaps would have been enough to make a fine relaxed album of bossa nova, but that is only half of the story. The unplanned inclusion of Gilberto’s wife, Astrud, would yield the delightful and hugely popular jazz song ‘The Girl From Ipanema’.

We covered the story in depth here but, in short, the musicians wanted to perform an English version “Garota de Ipanema” and João, unable to sing in English, turned to the only person in the studio who could do so: his wife Astrud.

Her voice proved to be perfect for the song and the album made its way into the world with just the English version.

Revealing the mean and ruthless streak in his personality that he was renowned for, Getz saw that Astrud was not paid for the session, nor entitled to any of the royalties, although apparently producer Creed Taylor made sure that a payment of $120 was made to the singer. 

Needless to say, the presence of Astrud Gilberto ensured not just the success of the album, but also the single which quickly sold more than a million units.

João Gilberto’s singing is pleasant enough but the album succeeds on the strength of the compositions, the vocals recorded by Astrud Gilberto on ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ and ‘Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)’ and of course, the magnificent playing of Getz.

His saxophone playing is a marvellous combination of simplicity combined with a couple of stunning solos on ‘Doralice’, ‘O Grande Amor’ and his exceptional outing on ‘Só Danço Samba’.

Widely regarded as the best of Getz’s bossa nova albums, this album is a joy from start to finish.


Stan Getz – tenor saxophone; João Gilberto – guitar, vocals; Antônio Carlos Jobim – piano; Sebastião Neto – double bass; Milton Banana – drums, pandeiro; Astrud Gilberto – vocals on “The Girl from Ipanema”, “Corcovado”, “The Girl from Ipanema” (45 rpm issue) and “Corcovado” (45 rpm issue)


The Girl from Ipanema / Doralice / Para Machucar Meu Coração / Desafinado  / Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars) / Só Danço Samba / O Grande Amor / Vivo Sonhando / The Girl from Ipanema (45 rpm version) / Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars) (45 rpm version)

Recorded: March 18–19, 1963

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.