This Rio de Janeiro-based band may hold the world record for the longest gap between albums. After their eponymous debut in 1962, it wasn't until 2001 that they released the aptly titled 'follow-up', The Return of The Ipanemas - the result of a reunion initiated by Far Out founder Joe Davis. Since then they've improved their work rate considerably, Que Beleza being their sixth - and possibly final - album.
It's not as if The Ipanemas did nothing for nearly four decades, though. During their 'break', original members Neco (guitar) and Wilson Das Neves (percussion, vocals) toured and recorded with the cream of Brazilian music, and Das Neves also surfaced recently as a member of gafieira samba revivalists Orquestra Imperial. The Ipanemas themselves have also put the Afro influence back into bossa nova with their rootsy 'Afro-bossa' - a richly rhythmic re-interpretation that pulls the style back towards its samba roots without losing its melodic and harmonic richness.
Sadly, Neco died after recording 2008's fine Call of the Gods album, and Que Beleza is thus dedicated to his memory. He's replaced by Jose Carlos on acoustic guitar, so the band's sound hasn't changed much, though there is an air of melancholy about this album. That's in spite of the sunny acoustic samba vibe, which makes it ideal undemanding summer listening.
Das Neves contributes a world-weary vocal to about half the tracks, most confidently on the opener Que Beleza de Nega and the wonderfully expectant vibe of Eue Ô. The other most distinctive 'voice' is Vitor Santos' woozy trombone, which either leads or accompanies most of the tunes. His easygoing and seemingly effortless playing is best heard on A Cara Dele, Espelho d'Agua and Nega E Kota.
There are also four guest vocals by veteran singer Andrea Martins. She shines on Festa, though sounds somewhat wobbly duetting with Das Neves on Lembranças. He even seems a little tired on the other duet, Traz Um Presente Pra Mim, perhaps intentionally, to convey being fed up with her nagging request of "Bring a present for me".
The roster of guest players isn't as rich as that on Call of the Gods, and Jose Roberto Bertrami's organ is a little too low in the mix to be fully appreciated. But even if it's not an essential addition to The Ipanemas' discography, this is still a rather lovely record.