Judging by the number of times we have gone to watch her perform, I assess Connie Evinsgson our favorite Minnesota musician. I’ve been going to her shows in a variety of venues and formats now for at least 35 years. In addition to being a jazz oriented vocalist of surpassing artistry Connie is an entrepreneur. She conceives and produces recordings on her own label. She has laid out her discs in chronological order here. I want to revisit her in this song-of-the-day series paying tribute to my favorite local musicians.
Sweet Happy Life (2012) is among the best of Connie’s recordings. On it she collected songs with lyrics by Norman Gimbel. Who, you may ask, is Norman Gimbel? Having written the English lyrics for “The Girl From Ipanema” and other hits, he may be the most successful lyricist you’ve never heard of. He died in 2018. His specialty was putting English lyrics to the bossa nova tunes that swept the country in the 1960’s. One such is “Água de Beber” (music by Antonio Carlos Jobim). This is the original with Astrud Gilberto on the vocal (1965).
Below is Connie’s version with Gimbel’s lyrics, a fantastic arrangement, and terrific instrumental backing. How did Connie get the idea to record a set of songs with lyrics by Norman Gimbel? She says she applied a rule of three. In a period of a couple of months three songs with lyrics by Gimbel caught her ears: “Sway,” “Sweet Happy Life,” and “So Nice.” She explains: “When I looked further into the catalog, I was struck by the number of great songs for which he’d written lyrics — it was like discovering gold.”
Gimbel approved. He commented on Sweet Happy Life: “I’m flattered and grateful for such a tasteful compilation of my songs. Connie Evingson is a wonderful singer and has given bossa nova and me a marvelous gift.”