Astrud Gilberto's entry in the nicely appointed Verve Jazz Masters compilation series shows exactly why the Brazilian singer is deserving of such an accolade. In her '60s heyday, Gilberto was often derided by jazz purists for her vibrato-less "desafinado" (deliberately slightly off-pitch) singing style and deadpan, childlike voice. But the diminutive bossa nova star has since been a huge influence on dozens of jazz and pop singers. VERVE JAZZ MASTERS is less of a greatest hits package than it is a smartly balanced retrospective of many of Gilberto's best performances. Her biggest hits, "Call Me" and "Summer Samba," are not included, and her signature tune, "The Girl From Ipanema," is only represented by a live take from a 1964 Carnegie Hall concert. The collection places equal emphasis on Gilberto's bossa nova-style interpretations of jazz standards and on her signature Portuguese-language sambas.
Verve Records was originally the product of the vision of jazz impressario Norman Granz (1918-2001). He formed the label in 1956 and moved all of the recordings released on his earlier Norgran Records and Clef Records labels to create the new Verve catalog.
Oscar Peterson was recorded by Verve more often than any other artist. In those years, his groups had the ability to not just keep up with him but become equal partners in creating music that would soar the heights while never forgetting to flat-out swing. Hear him in classic duo, trio, and big-band settings with such stalwarts as Cannonball Adderley, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, Sam Jones, Clark Terry, and Ed Thigpen.
One of the most distinctive of all pianists, Erroll Garner proved that it was possible to be a sophisticated player without knowing how to read music, that a creative jazz musician can be very popular without watering down his music, and that it is possible to remain an enthusiastic player without changing one's style once it is formed. A brilliant virtuoso who sounded unlike anyone else, on medium tempo pieces, Erroll Garner often stated the beat with his left hand like a rhythm guitar while his right played chords slightly behind the beat, creating a memorable effect.