This is a 1959 bossa nova by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça; the title means something like “Out of Tune” and is exquisitely incorrect. It has been recorded a staggering number of times. I’m here to talk about my favorite version, with Jobim guesting on a recording by Stan Getz and João Gilberto.
It’s on a 1964 album called Getz/Gilberto, which is fabulous end-to-end. It also includes Girl from Ipanema which remains so beautiful all those decades later, although its gender politics probably haven’t aged well.
Here’s a story about this record: Down Beat, the jazz magazine, used to have this feature called the “blindfold test” where they’d play some tracks for a musician without telling him or her who they were, and ask for one- to five-star ratings. One time, the commentator was Miles Davis, who was really a mean guy, and he pissed on several of the recordings — some now regarded as classics — from a great height. But they put on Desafinado and he said:
Gilberto and Stan Getz made an album together? Stan plays good on that. I like Gilberto; I'm not particularly crazy about just anybody’s bossa nova. I like the samba. And I like Stan, because he has so much patience, the way he plays those melodies - other people can’t get nothing out of a song, but he can. Which takes a lot of imagination, that he has, that so many other people don’t have.
As for Gilberto, he could read a newspaper and sound good! I’ll give that one five stars.
I’m with Miles. But like I said, there are a whole lot of versions out there; chances are there are one or two I’d be recommending here if I’d heard them. You really can’t go far wrong with this tune.
Links · Spotify playlist. This tune on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify. I can’t find live video of this band playing the tune, but here’s Gilberto solo, Gilberto and Jobim, and Getz with Charlie Byrd.