Family aside, Gilberto's debut also features the work of Suba, the great Sao Paulo writer/programming whiz whose solitary masterpiece, Sao Paulo Confessions, celebrates the giant city in which Suba perished in a fire last November. His production work on samba master Baden Powell's moody "Samba de Bençao" and João Donato's spunky "Bananeira" is one of the highlights of this subtle, sensual record. Gilberto's smoky alto smolders throughout the disc, no matter the lyric or arrangement. Her voice caresses and insinuates, particularly on such spare, beautiful tunes as Chico Buarque de Hollandia's "Samba e Amor," a track on which Celso Fonseca's guitar sounds wonderfully ghostly, and "Sem Contençao," a languid number by Gilberto herself and the Dutch duo Arling and Cameron.
Born and raised in Brazil, Gilberto, who's now based out of London, is obviously a worldly woman who makes global, urbane music. Not only is she multilingual -- in "So Nice (Summer Samba)," a nod to bossa nova's '60s past, she evokes the Astrud Gilberto/Stan Getz samba "Girl From Ipanema," but she also incorporates all kinds of strains, from French chanson to hip-hop. Bebel Gilberto's music reveals itself grudgingly: One could say the very smoothness of her delivery prevents an easy dive below the surface of this disc's rich sonic pool.