In the early '90s, in the middle of his mandate as councilman for Salvador, Gil was again concerned with the Afro roots of Brazilian people, and this album strongly reflects that. "Madalena" brings social criticism through Afro soca grooves. "Parabolicamara" builds a discourse about communications over a beautiful ponto de macumba melody with enriched harmonies. "Um Sonho" is a doleful toada about the lack of understanding of the popular soul by politicians and technocrats. "Buda Nago" is a tribute to Dorival Caymmi in Afro-Bahian style, which features the guest singer Nana Caymmi (Dorival's daughter and Gil's former wife).
Ten years after the live album São João Vivo on the same topic, Gilberto Gil again celebrates June's popular saints festivities on the buoyant Fé na Festa. Such festivities were brought from Portugal and became an important part of Brazilian culture, especially the cult of São João (Saint John) in the northeast region. The music associated with these festivities is typically performed with instruments brought by (or derived from) the Portuguese colons, such as the accordion, violin, triangle, cavaquinho, and sanfona. While Gilberto Gil has an international reputation as a musical revolutionary, thank to his tropicalista origins, he is also a superb classicist, as his many projects in Brazilian folk music can attest.
The end of the military dictatorship in Brazil left the country lost in its references and opened way for a period of wild hedonism. Realce, one of Gilberto Gil's most disco-influenced albums, is a document of that period. Released in LP format in 1979, it had the disco ideology expressed in several songs like "Realce" (which became slang for a dangerous drug frequently consumed in those places), "Sarara Miolo" (also a danceable tune, finds room for social criticism through black pride, where Gil reproaches the use of straightening and discoloring of hair by his brothers and sisters), "Marina" (featuring Dorival Caymmi), and "Toda Menina Baiana" (a hybrid of disco and Bahian samba).
To lovers of Brazilian jazz, the pairing of these two legends of the genre amounts to something of a musical orgasm. The only serious misfire isn't really that bad, just a bit incongruous. Why would two consummate Brazilian ambassadors choose to do their one English lyric song – George Harrison's "Something" – as a reggae tune? The groove is silly, but actually some of the guitar work is fun. Just as when Ivan Lins sings in his native Portuguese rather than stilted English, this tandem is most at home conveying emotions that go beyond simple semantics, usually with Gil writing the music and Nascimento the lyrics. "Sebastian" is a moody bass-and-drum driven power ballad which functions as a showcase to their raspy vocals.
This sparkling suite for violin and piano came into being when the composer had to adapt his incidental score for a production of Shakespeare's play to the impending absence of the chamber orchestral. The result is a brilliant piece for violin and piano, which the composer quickly released in a four-movement version. There are other recordings of the chamber orchestra suite in five-movements that duplicate only three of the movements of this version. Violinist Gil Shaham and pianist André Previn are ideal partners in this brilliant performance. The four movements allow Shaham to show four sides of his violinist's personality: He skips and plays in carefree fashion in the opening movement, indulges in the grotesquery and parody of the second, gets to play the romantic in the garden scene of the third movement, and dazzles with virtuosity in the final hornpipe. Previn's part is more than mere accompaniment; the piano often has a large part of the mood of the music and his contribution is, to use a word already employed here, ideal.
Perhaps no one in the world outside Jamaica is better equipped to perform a Bob Marley tribute than Gilberto Gil. The two are very nearly equals; Gil meant as much to residents of Brazil as Marley did to Jamaicans – even though popularity in Brazil means competing in a very crowded field. Gil is also an exact contemporary of Marley's (he is three years older, but began recording at the same time) and, like Marley, arrived at a distinctive sound only after years of working in the local vernacular. (For Marley it was ska and rocksteady, while for Gil it was bossa nova and samba.) He does owe a debt of gratitude to Bob Marley, however, for it was Marley's global stardom during the '70s that enabled Gil to begin making an impact overseas (especially in Africa).
This Gilberto Gil reissue of an album recorded in 1987 brings several of his hits under a new dressing, consisting of contemporary rhythms such as funk and reggae, mixed with Caribbean influences and Brazilian music. An electric album with plenty of brass attacks, it is fully danceable yet melodically rich and lyrically expressive. "Aquele Abraço," "Vida," "Soy Loco Por Ti America," "Babá Alapalá," and "Mar de Copacabana" are all classic successes of Gil's, interpreted in the version presented to 150 thousand people during the Rock in Rio festival.
Gilberto Gil, recently named as Brazil's minister of culture, has always trodden a very individual path in Brazilian music. But even by his own standards, this is an unusual work. The Zumbi of the title is a Brazilian hero. He founded Palmares Quilombo, a place in Brazil where escaped and freed slaves could live as they had in Africa. Until closed by the Portuguese, Palmares Quilombo lasted almost 100 years. Z is a celebration of the man, conceived as a ballet, celebrating the 300th anniversary of Zumbi. The music here is actually a collaboration between Gil, the great songwriter and musician Carlinhos Brown, and Rodolfo Stroter, who was musical director for the project (however, the album appears under Gil's name).
São João Vivo is the live version of As Canções de Eu Tu Eles, the Brazilian popular music legend Gilberto Gil's fine homage to Luiz Gonzaga and forro. This is basically the same album, though of course recorded live. Compared to the studio album, a few additional tracks have been added. Perhaps the most welcome of those tracks is Anastácia's romantic "Só Quero um Xodó," which Gil recorded with great success in the '70s. Gil also presents a different version of his own "Toda Menina Bahiana," another very fine '70s hit of his. To sum it up, though, São João Vivo is indeed a nice, enjoyable live album, but it is basically unnecessary for anyone who already owns the studio album As Canções de Eu Tu Eles.