Remarkably, nearly 40 years elapsed between the Ipanemas’ self-titled debut and its subsequent follow-up, The Return Of The Ipanemas. The Ipanemas are Wilson Des Neves (b. 1937, Brazil; vocals/percussion) and Neco (b. 1933, Brazil; acoustic guitar/vocals), a duo of legendary Brazilian musicians who helped recalibrate their home country’s music in the 60s, with their ‘Afro samba’ recordings juxtaposing Afro jazz and samba. Des Neves and Neco apparently grew up listening to samba cancao (‘the music of the poor’), a variation on Brazil’s national samba music. During the late 50s, Des Neves was an in-house percussionist and Neco a guitarist at CBS Records. Alongside other cutting-edge musicians, they developed bossa nova, reworking the new sounds of boleros, rumbas and American jazz into traditional samba and performing with Brazilian musicians such as João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Chico Buarque and Baden Powell. In 1962, Des Neves and Neco were invited to record their own album. Adopting the Ipanemas moniker and teaming up with percussionist Rubens Bassini and arranger Astor Silva, Des Neves and Neco merged African spirituality and the themes of samba cancao (love, spirituality, repression and sadness), specifically injecting elements of African music into accepted Brazilian traditions.
When a follow-up album was not commissioned, Des Neves became the drummer for the popular bossa nova singer Elis Regina, playing in her group for over 20 years. In 1973, he became the drummer of Brazil’s respected samba school, Imperio Serano. Neco, meanwhile, wrote and arranged for Brazilian samba singers such as Buarque and Beth Carvalho. Des Neves and Nico also enjoyed prestigious solo careers. The Ipanemas were rediscovered in the late 80s by Far Out Recordings founder Joe Davis, apparently on a record hunting trip to Brazil. After Des Neves appeared on a trio of Davis-curated compilations credited to Grupo Batuque, he and Neco were invited to rejuvenate their four decade-old partnership. The resultant albums, 2001’s The Return Of The Ipanemas and 2003’s Afro Bossa, were charming and classy and found overseas fans including Gilles Peterson and Mr. Scruff.