As Blue Note Records builds its series of jazz CD’s dedicated to influential songwriters of the last half of the twentieth century, implicitly proving the breadth of music made available since the heyday of the Great American Songbook composer, it has come to the unparalleled originality of Antonio Carlos Jobim whose music is instantly recognizable by listeners, more so than, say, Cole Porter’s. As Jobim combined the understatement of West Coast cool jazz and the wistfulness of the Brazilian spirit, an entirely new sound, bossa nova, emerged. Reaching its height with the immensely popular Stan Getz bossa nova recordings of the early 1960’s, and in the process gaining its place within the American music consciousness, bossa nova now has situated itself within the repertoire of most jazz musicians as it combines often melodic simplicity (e.g., "One Note Samba" or "The Girl From Ipanema") with harmonic complexity over the reassuring 2/4 feel. The feeling of a spoken voice lamenting misfortune or out-of-reach goals receives appropriate expression as the staggered beat and the unrushed words seem to be part of a conversation.
One of those songs is "The Girl From Ipanema," as if men are bemoaning their fate as being unseen by the object of their desire. On Blue Note Plays Jobim,
São Paulo native Eliane Elias sings the song quietly and alluringly in Portuguese, as her brother-in-law Michael Brecker gives voice to the melody on tenor sax as well. But another Brazilian song of complex emotion, mixing hurt with attraction, is "Insensatez," which is just as apparently deliberative in its exposition as "The Girl From Ipanema". The difference on Blue Note’s tribute album is that French guitarist Biréli LaGrène plays the song as an instrumental, backed by bassist extraordinaire Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, who takes an extended flowing solo on the trio version.
Blue Note’s catalog is so extensive that it includes one of the early pioneers of jazz-samba fusion, Bud Shank, whose work with Laurinda Almeida predated that of Getz’s. His version of "Song Of The Jet" with a Brazilian rhythm section actually is reminiscent of Getz’s combination of Brazilian composition with the sweetness of saxophone. Another of Blue Note’s older recordings appearing on Blue Note Plays Jobim
is Stanley Turrentine’s distinctive version of "Wave," his attack and tone unmistakable while he’s backed by McCoy Tyner on piano four years after the pianist left Coltrane and a decade before his own Latin-inspired recordings.
Though Jobim’s songs often are performed with deference to his melodies, Cassandra Wilson shows that there is
room to reharmonize and recolor "Corcovado" with Kevin Breit’s subtle accompaniment on mandolin while guitarist Marvin Sewell alters the expected course of the song even as he leaves space for Wilson. She sings "Waters Of March" as languorously, articulating the unusual lyrics with clarity even as she adds a sense of wonder to the song.
However, Jobim wrote over 300 songs, and in the length of a single CD, it’s impossible to cover the breadth of his imagination and the extent of the songs that have provided rich material for jazz musicians for the past 40 years. Blue Note Plays Jobim,
though, does hint at the infinite number of possibilities in interpreting his music that the Blue Note artists on this CD have begun to explore.