My Favorite Album: Iron & Wine on Gilberto Gil & Jorge Ben’s “Gil e Jorge” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, June 18th, 2024  

My Favorite Album: Iron & Wine on Gilberto Gil & Jorge Ben’s “Gil e Jorge”

“It’s an inspirational record for me—not so much about what it sounds like but what they’re doing.”

Apr 01, 2020 Iron & Wine Photography by Piper Ferguson Bookmark and Share

Sam Beam (who records as Iron & Wine) admits he gets lost when confronted with the whole “favorite album of all time” idea. Moods change. Lists get altered. Favorites come and go. To help with this entire exercise, Beam decided to make his own rules and go with “favorite collaboration” given that his newest release, Years to Burn, is just that—a full-length album with Calexico that serves as the highly anticipated follow-up to the acclaimed 2005 EP, In the Reins.

Beam says the chosen collaboration—Gil e Jorge by Gilberto Gil & Jorge Ben—is an inspiring one he found while digging into the ’60s Tropicalia movement, a fusion of Brazil’s genres that blurred lines in numerous art forms.

“They’re fucking amazing,” says Beam. “They’re both very accomplished musicians in their own right. They’re percussive and playful with vocal acrobatics. Both of their voices are super powerful but also nuanced. They were both part of this psychedelic bossa nova kind of movement from the ’60s, a political movement with Tom Zé and Gal Costa and these people.

“They all got kicked out of the country for a while and then they were back and playing music,” he continues. “In their prime in the mid-’70s, they did this super off-the-cuff, minimalistic jam of the two of them—Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil—and it’s basically just them and a percussionist. Every once in a while, there’s a bass player, but they just vamp for 10 minutes at a time. There are eight or nine songs and they’re just a super long two-chord or sometimes one-chord vamp. They’re just having fun playing off of one another.”

Beam, who has also collaborated with Jesca Hoop and Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell, says it’s the “loose” nature of the collaboration that draws him in.

“It’s a process record,” he says. “It’s really like watching them do dancing exercises where they are somewhat familiar with the basic tune and then they start improvising and then improvising off of one another. They’re throwing each other a little vocal bar and the other will pick it up. It’s really loose and improvisational. It’s also really fun.”

Beam says he was first into Jorge Ben’s solo work as he dug into Brazil’s rich musical history when he found a Verve reissue on compact disc of the 1975 album. From there, he’s enjoyed the work of both artists, along with others in the Tropicália movement, but Jorge e Ben stands out as a personal favorite in the way it can inspire his own collaborative efforts.

“I think it’s really brave,” says Beam. “Some people are more carefree and are able to improvise, but I’m a really reticent jammer because I’m not super confident in my guitar playing. It takes a special person for me to open up like that with, and I’ve found them, but it’s not a real common thing for me. But at the same time, it is really inspiring, because look at what they’ve made. It’s not perfect, but I love what they’ve made. Why shouldn’t I just jump in and do it? It’s an inspirational record for me—not so much about what it sounds like but what they’re doing.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 66 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online. For the issue we interviewed musicians and actors about their all-time favorite album.]

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