A sidebar for the "Corcovado" Challenge

@gregb and @Hayden,

You guys have skill sets way beyond mine, but I might be able to offer some help with the problems you mentioned in your posts. I’ve spent a year, maybe two, listening to and studying Brazilian piano exclusively. So, with your indulgence, I thought I’d share some thoughts/observations that might help you with your occasional forays into Bossa Nova.

I noticed you both suggested that the tune was tricky or “tough–[with the] need to keep the bossa feel, the melody, and the harmony going all at the same time” or that the quarter note pulse “interferes with the groove.”

When you say “the bossa feel,” you’ve hit on an important point with bossa nova–the feel. And the feel comes from learning and internalizing the basic rhythm and its variations. With Brazilian piano the rhythm plays just as an important role as the melody and harmony. And it’s difficult to learn and assimilate–at least for me.

Here are a few more observations:

  1. Think 2/4. Whether your lead sheet says 4/4 or not, Brazilian piano is generally in 2/4, whether samba, bossa nova, baião, choro, etc.
  2. Straight, no Swing (with apologies to Monk :sunglasses:).
  3. Practice the rhythm until you just feel it and don’t need to think about it.
  4. Bossa Nova is soft, subtle, and direct. Sticking embellishments in every space will take away rather add value.
  5. It’s more about eighths and sixteenths than quarter notes. (the quarter note pulse “interferes with the groove.”)

There are a number of great jazz pianists who have all had a least one “Latin-tinged” album. All offer brilliant interpretations of the tunes, but they somehow don’t quite sound authentic. I can’t put my finger on it, but I get that feeling.

One notable exception is Kenny Barron’s Canta Brasil (@2002 Sunnyside/Confluence). I think the reason this album works so well is for “the feel” mentioned above. He’s accompanied by three of the best Brazilian musicians working today: Nilson Matta on bass; Romero Lubambo on guitar; and Duduka da Fonseca on drums. I believe César Camargo Mariano, one of the great piano masters, was also involved in the production of the album. No wonder it rings true, has that feel.

It’s available on Apple Music, but not Spotify. However, there is a brilliant live version here. Enjoy! :musical_keyboard:


Great tips here - thanks for sharing @scott1

Whilst researching the tune I really enjoyed listening to the below version.

The guitar solo is awesome…


I agree. And what a coincidence! That’s the version my playing is based on. Go back and take a listen–you’ll be able to hear some of it. :rofl: