Looking back on his bossa nova exploits, this may be the record that Stan Getz learned the most from. Luiz Bonfa, the sidekick for this session, was one of the founders of bossa popularity, an absolute giant in Brazil at the time of this recording. He played with a subtlety, though, that few pop stars, and, indeed, jazz musicians, seemed capable of. So, as opposed to the blending of the styles that Getz had become known for, recording with such a distinctive personality as Bonfa would force him to conform to Bonfa's style perhaps more than on past outings. In many cases, Getz rose to the challenge, making this record a true treat, and easily one of the best of the series.
Numbers like the opening "Sambalero," "Two Note Samba," and "Menina Flor," where Getz carries the melody, show how far he had come from the more indulgent bop soloing. Instead, he sticks within figures, giving the songs a pop storyline despite a lack of words. Bonfa is equally charming, though in a predictably less pronounced manner. He is content to ride the chords in the background, coming to a flourish as Getz takes a breath. The interplay is seamless, but Bonfa's presence is always there, perhaps waving at Getz to finish up the solo or lay off so many triads.
Equally sparse is the addition of vocalist Maria Toledo, whose voice is often set back into the mix for a uniquely haunting offshoot to the tenor sax. Toledo's voice is clearly more trained than Astrud Gilberto, so she has the versatility to stick in the background and make an instrument of her voice, coming to the front only to punctuate songs like the two exclamation points often used in Spanish.
At its best, this album falls short of the virtuoso of the Almeida record and lacks the instantly languid mood of the famed Gilberto sessions, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Something floating between the understatement makes it seem that much more authentic. Unlike bop jazz, bossa nova didn't need to be anything other than itself.