We may never have heard Astrud Gilberto’s elegantly bored alto on “The Girl from Ipanema” and “Concorvado” if she hadn’t been the only English speaker in her husband’s band, according to Donald L. Maggin’s biography Stan Getz: A Life In Jazz. When she translated her husband’s music for the American saxophonist, he loved her voice and insisted she sing on the record, despite protestations that she was an untrained housewife. Other accounts have Brazilian guitarist João encouraging his wife’s interest in singing. Either way, the result was a collaboration to bridge all divides: Astrud’s blue voice matched well with Getz’s soft tenor sax and played a nice foil to the nasal, viscous honk of her husband. Meanwhile, Antonio Carlos “Tom” Jobim provided the wistful lyrics and clean piano.
The team fomented an international explosion of bossa nova (literally “new trend”), a style of piano and guitar jazz-pop from Rio de Janeiro that benefited from the American sax. But there is such a thing as too close: after three albums, the partnership broke apart when João and Astrud became estranged and Astrud began touring with Getz, subsequently becoming his lover.