On Wednesday I wrote about the creative origins of The Girl From Ipanema and provided a current photo of the woman who inspired the song. Yesterday I shared my 12 favorite versions of the classic. Today, I have five more favorites plus a video clip of Red Norvo and Don Lamond. And to finish off the series, I will offer my picks for the three worst versions of the song as recorded by known artists (I'm leaving out wedding bands, karaoke efforts and cruise ship vocalists).
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's start with my remaining five picks (the numbers pick up from yesterday's 12):
13. James Galway—Tango del Fuego (1999). One of my favorite instruments on any version of The Girl From Ipanema is the flute. Its soft timbre sounds like the breeze and conjures up images of the wind chopping gently at blue water and sailboats sliding around. If you, too, are a flute-a-holic, how about five or more flutes? That's what you get here. I can't tell whether there truly is a gaggle of flutists or the great Galway overdubbed all of the parts. The result is delicious, with an inventive arrangement that's a hybrid of salsa and bossa nova. You'll find this soaring, six-minute rendition at iTunes.
14. Percy Faith—Latin Themes for Young Lovers (1965). Hey, back off! Yes, this is strictly a chilled martini version. But remember, Percy Faith is the same guy who recorded Theme From a Summer Place. And how many times have you caught yourself humming along to that one? Here, the song we love receives the same plush treatment—with flutes, muted trumpets and a million strings. Plus there's a flute soli, all taken at a brisk bossa pace. This is 2:33 of pure bliss, and you'll find it at iTunes under Faith's 16 Most Requested Songs. And based on my discovery at YouTube, there seems to be another freak for the Faith version among us:
15. Marty Napoleon—Louis Armstrong and His All Stars (1968). This track was recorded during a BBC TV show and features only pianist Napoleon, bassist Buddy Catlett and drummer Danny Barcelona. The trio was backing Pops, trombonist Tyree Glenn and clarinetist Joe Muranyi, who took a blowing break. You'll find this track on the Louis Armstrong: Hello Dolly CD at iTunes or Amazon.
16. John Holt—1,000 Volts of Holt (1974). Reggae legend Holt recorded the song two different ways on this 1974 classic album.
One version was with lavish strings and another was a pure Reggae mix. Download them both. Each is fabulous and brings a Caribbean feel to the song. Or just buy the entire album. If you're unfamiliar with Holt, he was a master of recording Reggae covers of established pop hits, and this CD is terrific. A remastered version is at iTunes and Amazon.
17. Houston Person and Teddy Edwards—Horn to Horn (1994). I tend to shy away from tenor saxophone workouts on this song simply because Stan Getz owns it. However, this version is an exception. Tenor legends Person and Edwards team up for a jazz workout on the song, joined here by Richard Wyands on electric piano, Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on drums. That's Person coming out of your left speaker, with Edwards on the right. You'll find this 7-minute track at iTunes on Jazz for a Day at the Beach.
18. Red Norvo (1974). Go here to see a clip of Red, who's joined by Barney Kessel on guitar, Larry Ridley on bass and (yep) Don Lamond on drums.
Three horrific versions. Finally, it's time for my picks for the three most barbaric treatments of this lilting song. Let's start at the top:
My award for the No.1 abominable rendition goes to...Mrs. Miller.
To be honest, her version (1966) is so bad it's almost a war crime. Go to iTunes and hear for yourself. For those unfamiliar with this 1960s cult figure and talk-show denizen, go here, if you must. The poor dear was an anti-rock novelty that went a bit too far.
Weighing in at No. 2, I'm afraid, is Maynard Ferguson, whose take on this gentle gem sounds like concrete slabs being dropped onto metal garbage cans. Poor Maynard (or his vengeful arranger) was oblivious to the delicate touch needed here. In all fairness, of course, Maynard in 2005 was at the tail end of a great career.
And finally the No. 3 worst version of The Girl From Ipanema, sadly, goes to Cher, whose strangely disinterested vocal makes it painfully clear that she couldn't care less about Ipanema, walking like a samba, or the bossa nova. La-di-da-di-dee.