Gilberto Gil, recently named as Brazil's minister of culture, has always trodden a very individual path in Brazilian music. But even by his own standards, this is an unusual work. The Zumbi of the title is a Brazilian hero. He founded Palmares Quilombo, a place in Brazil where escaped and freed slaves could live as they had in Africa. Until closed by the Portuguese, Palmares Quilombo lasted almost 100 years. Z is a celebration of the man, conceived as a ballet, celebrating the 300th anniversary of Zumbi. The music here is actually a collaboration between Gil, the great songwriter and musician Carlinhos Brown, and Rodolfo Stroter, who was musical director for the project (however, the album appears under Gil's name).
São João Vivo is the live version of As Canções de Eu Tu Eles, the Brazilian popular music legend Gilberto Gil's fine homage to Luiz Gonzaga and forro. This is basically the same album, though of course recorded live. Compared to the studio album, a few additional tracks have been added. Perhaps the most welcome of those tracks is Anastácia's romantic "Só Quero um Xodó," which Gil recorded with great success in the '70s. Gil also presents a different version of his own "Toda Menina Bahiana," another very fine '70s hit of his. To sum it up, though, São João Vivo is indeed a nice, enjoyable live album, but it is basically unnecessary for anyone who already owns the studio album As Canções de Eu Tu Eles.