Bebel Gilberto is in love. And the warmth and sweetness of that newfound romance can be felt throughout All In One, her seductive debut for Verve.
“I am really loved. I’m getting married. My future husband was also the sound engineer and executive producer, and he helped me a lot,” says the New York-born Brazilian vocalist. “I believe being loved helps a lot when you’re making music, especially when you’re making music with the person that you love. That I never had in my life. It was amazing.”
Known for her adventurous blends of Brazilian, European and electronic pop styles, Gilberto continues to blur musical boundaries on All In One. But the sensual rhythms of her native country dominate the production courtesy of Carlinhos Brown, Didi Gutman (Brazilian Girls), Mark Ronson, Daniel Jobim and John King of the acclaimed Dust Brothers. Some arrangements, particularly on “Far From the Sea,” “Port Antonio” and “Secret,” dazzle with sensitive instrumentation, folding in strings and woodwinds. Or they thump with irresistible beats.
Unlike her previous albums, All In One is a more personal endeavor. Most of the love songs are rendered beautifully in Portuguese, Bebel’s native language. Parts of the album were conceived, developed and recorded in Gilberto’s home studio. “That for sure made it more personal and technically more available for me,” the artist says. “You can always change and add.”
That suited Gilberto well, given that she prefers to record as the inspiration hits. “I only like to work whenever I want. It’s kind of difficult to get me in a room and get me writing, writing, writing,” she says. “I always like to write when songs come to my head. Unexpectedly, I get a song. I can be in a restaurant. I can be sleeping. I can be coming back from drinks. And I immediately record my ideas. There’s no real method. I’m a totally, totally spontaneous artist, unpredictable. I’ve always been that way.”
Yet the feel of All In One is romantic and fluid. Inspiration for the album came early this year while Gilberto was on vacation in Jamaica. She recorded a few tracks there with Didi Gutman and her longtime guitarist Masa Shimizu at the famed Geejam Studio in Port Antonio, Jamaica.
Although different producers contributed to All In One, the album maintains a cohesive feel throughout. But it was when Bebel went to Bahia to work with Carlinhos Brown that things really began to gel. Brown’s percussive-heavy arrangements, a hallmark of traditional Brazilian music, can be heard on “Chica Chica Boom Chic.” Brown especially shows his mastery of subtle Brazilian rhythms on “Canção de Amor” and “Nossa Senhora,” and the importance of his role in the project cannot be overstated.
Just before the album was complete, Gilberto met Mark Ronson, perhaps best known for his work with Amy Winehouse. He produced the Stevie Wonder-penned “The Real Thing,” a club-ready highlight on All In One. The Dap Kings, the dynamite band best known for supporting Sharon Jones and Winehouse, lay down the propulsive groove on “The Real Thing.”
“I love Stevie Wonder and with this song I had to explore a different way of singing. It sounds new and it sounds old. It’s timeless. It won’t be old in 10 years – hopefully,” she says with a chuckle.
In addition to silky originals, the album includes other imaginative covers, such as Bob Marley’s “Sun Is Shining” (produced by Didi Gutman and Joh n King) and Carmen Miranda’s “Chica Chica Boom Chic” (produced by Didi Gutman, Carlinhos Brown and mixed by Mario Caldato). The latter song is Gilberto’s tribute to Miranda, the Brazilian legend of stage and screen who would have turned 100 this year.
Gilberto also remakes “Bim Bom,” a song first recorded by her father, bossa nova guitar great João Gilberto. It’s done as a duet with the song’s producer, Daniel Jobim, the grandson of bossa nova king Antônio Carlos Jobim.
The thoughtful artistry and sensitive vocal execution heard throughout All In One are culminations of a lifetime of performing. Music, the stage – it’s all in Gilberto’s blood. Her mother is also a well-regarded artist, the beloved Brazilian singer Miúcha. Gilberto’s parents remain her biggest influences. “My father’s guitar playing is like hearing an orchestra,” Gilberto says. “From him, I learned all about music and what I want. I know exactly the chord changes I want, which instruments. I’m sure I learned this from my dad because of his intense guitar playing when I was a child. I woke up to his guitar. I went to sleep to his guitar. We didn’t live all the time together, but all the time I was with him it was all about the guitar.”
From her mother, Gilberto learned to sing. “She was really good at vocals and background vocals,” the artist says. “We did a children’s album and a play together. We did theater together. It was between 1977 and 1979. Since then, I knew I belonged to the stage.”
Although Gilberto had performed professionally throughout most of her childhood in Brazil, she didn’t release her first recording, a self-titled EP, until 1986. She was about 20 years old. A move to New York in the early ’90s introduced Gilberto to progressive sounds in American pop and urban music. She worked with the likes of David Byrne, Arto Lindsay and the Thievery Corporation. Gilberto also became a regular performer in NYC venues such as Irving Plaza and the Beacon Theater.
Later in the decade, she divided her time between New York and London, where she collaborated with DJ/producer Amon Tobin and singer Nina Miranda. Gilberto released three albums between 2000 and 2007: Tanto Tempo, Bebel Gilberto and Momento. All received critical kudos and sold millions around the world. Gilberto has long established a reputation as an exciting, energetic concert performer. For All In One, the artist plans to return to the stage. She says she can’t wait to perform the album’s love-steeped songs. “The album shows where I am right now,” she says. “Where I am right now is a very happy place.”
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Bebel Gilberto All In One available September 29, 2009