A vinyl copy of The Astrud Gilberto album.

When I bought the instalment in the Compact Jazz series of compilations devoted to Astrud Gilberto, it stuck out of the rest of my music collection at an awkward angle. This was in 1989, when most of my cassettes featured rock, pop & indie music: tantamount in those days to a declaration of allegiance to a particular musical tribe. Gilberto’s easy & mellow jazz-tinged confections were clearly the property of some rival clan, but I knew I loved ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ & wanted to hear more like it.

Thankfully such ridiculous demarcations are much less in evidence nowadays, and one can listen to a little of everything without feeling the need to take sides in some broader conflict. It’s turned out that, unlike the larger part of what I was listening to in ‘89, I still love Astrud’s singing now. I was delighted then to find a copy of her debut solo album in Monmouth the other weekend at ‘The Vinyl Spinner’ market stall. It’s from a budget re-issue series seemingly made for the Dutch market, but there’s nothing wrong with the record within, which carries the familar Verve label, and which sounds wonderful.

It’s very nearly a case of “Astrud Gilberto Sings the Antônio Carlos Jobim Song Book”, with all but one of the tracks (and that the weakest of them) compositions of his. It’s all the better a record for it: ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ and ‘Corcovado’ (the tracks on Getz/Gilberto that first introduced Astrud’s voice to the world) had been Jobim’s handiwork too. Moreover, the composer was also present in person, playing guitar throughout and adding vocals to ‘Agua de Beber’. None of which takes away from Gilberto’s own contribution: her voice brings with it just the right blend of naïve sentimentality and cool melancholy, complementing the songwriting and the arrangements perfectly.