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LP SOUND OF IPANEMA (1965) - Felix Grant



In the south section of Rio de Janeiro there is a small, quiet residential area known as Ipanema. It stretches along one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and many of Brazil’s young creative artists live and work here. It is the home of composer Carlos Lyra, and it was here that Paul Winter came to spend a summer studying and playing Brazilian music.

Carlos Lyra is in the foreground of an exciting new musical development, which has been taking place in Brazil. In popular music, he and Antonio Carlos Jobim are Brazil’s best composers, and their music is truly music with a “new touch”. It is a fresh, sincere expression to come out of the blossoming modern culture of Brazil.

Lyra is, as his name suggests, an exceptionally lyrical composer. His melodies have a flavor reminiscent of Jerome Kern; the harmony has influence from the French Impressionists; the rhythm has a strong yet subtle feeling of the Samba; and like George Gershwin, Lyra has drawn from the Negro folk music of his country. The lyrics are in Portuguese, and they are sung with the nostalgic and poignant sound of that language. Their meanings are often deep, and always sincere, and most of the lyrics could stand as poetry on their own.

Carlos Lyra considers himself first as a composer, and second as a singer-guitarist. He has written over one hundred songs, three film scores and many television shows. He has also a great interest in music for the theater, and he has written six musical comedies. His most recent musical, “Pobre Menina Rica” (“Poor Little Rich Girl”), written with Vinícius de Moraes, was a great success in Rio.

His writing reflects that distinctive flavor of Brazilian culture which has come from the blending of three cultural heritages there: the African, the European and the Indian. Like Villa-Lobos, Carlos has explored folk music all over the vast country, and it is apparent in his music. Two sources provide most of this folk music. One, northeast of Brazil, is the music of the Indians, which shows strong influence of the medieval music and Gregorian chants taught them by the priest who colonized them in the 16th century. The other source is the favelas, the slums of Rio de Janeiro, and the descendants of the African slaves, who brought with them the Samba.

Besides this influences, and that of composers like Ravel and Debussy, Carlos has learned from George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter, and also from modern jazz, particularly that of Stan Kenton and Gerry Mulligan.

The lyrics for many of Carlos’ songs have been written by Vinícius de Moraes, the foremost popular poet of Brazil, and the author of the film “Black Orpheus” and the brazilian original lyrics for “Girl from Ipanema”. They often convey a mood of saudade, a feeling of longing or nostalgia for someone or someplace, and which has a peculiar quality of being sad and happy at the same time. Vinícius describes it as “a kind of sadness which has the hope of being happy someday”.

Felix Grant, 1965

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