Tom Jobim - Brazilian Music
Tom Jobim (01/25/1927 - 12/08/1994) is the name that best represents Brazilian music on the second half of the 20th century. Pianist, composer, singer, arranger, occasional guitarist, he’s practically a unanimous call when it comes to musical quality and sophistication. He was born in the north part of Rio de Janeiro, and soon his family moved to Ipanema.
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Among his piano and guitar teachers was Koellreuter, the German man who brought the concept of dodecaphonic technique to Brazil. Tom considered working as an architect, even getting a job in an architecture office. Meanwhile, he performed in bars and clubs in the early 50s, in Copacabana, and eventually got hired by a record company. Besides writing the arrangements for other people’s songs, he also had to transcribe melodies written by composers who were illiterate in terms of musical notations. He started writing his own compositions at that time.
His very first recorded song was "Incerteza". "Tereza da Praia", which Jobim wrote with Billy Blanco in 1954, was his first hit. In 1956 he wrote the music for Vinícius de Moraes’ play, "Orfeu da Conceição", and the both became constant partners. A popular song from that play is "Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Você", which has been recorded over and over by different artists around the world.
Tom Jobim was part of the embryonic nucleus of bossa nova. The album "Canção do Amor Demais" (1958), featuring music by Tom and Vinícius, sung by Eliseth Cardoso and accompanied by João Gilberto’s guitar, is regarded as a landmark for bossa nova, due to the freshness of the arrangements, harmonic and melodic patterns. It features, among others, "Canção do Amor Demais", "Chega de Saudade" and "Eu Não Existo sem Você".
Bossa nova’s solidification as a musical style came soon, in 1958, with the track "Chega de Saudade" interpreted by João Gilberto. In the following year, Gilberto’s album "Chega de Saudade", arranged and directed by Tom Jobim, defined the paths that Brazilian music would take from then on. That same year, singer Silvia Telles made an album exclusively out of Jobim’s material, picking 12 songs like "Só em Teus Braços", "Dindi" and "A Felicidade" (with Vinícius). He was also one of the hyped performers at the Carnegie Hall Bossa Nova Festival, in 1962. The next year, he and Vinícius committed one of their greatest hits and very likely the most aired Brazilian song of all times: "Garota de Ipanema". In 1962 and ’63, the amount of "classics" produced by Tom is amazing: "Samba do Avião", "Só Danço Samba" (with Vinícius), "Ela É Carioca" (with Vinícius), "O Morro Não Tem Vez", "Inútil Paisagem", "Vivo Sonhando". Spending time in the US, he made albums - his first solo was "The Composer Of 'Desafinado' Plays", from 1965 -, played shows and started his own publishing house, Corcovado Music.
The popularity of his songs outside of Brazil helped his way back to the US in 1967, when he recorded with the great American myth, Frank Sinatra. The album "Francis Albert Sinatra and Antônio Carlos Jobim", arranged by Claus Ogerman, included English versions of Tom’s songs ("The Girl From Ipanema", "How Insensitive", "Dindi", "Quiet Night of Quiet Stars") and American standards, such as Cole Porter’s "I Concentrate On You".
By the late 60s, after releasing the record "Wave", he went on to compete in music festivals, being placed first with the song "Sabiá", which he wrote with Chico Buarque. "Sabiá" captivated the critics, but not the audience, which fiercely booed the song right in the face of the embarrassed composers.
Going deeper in his music studies, acquiring taste for classical composers like Villa-Lobos and Debussy, Tom Jobim went on writing and recording exquisite, finely inspired music, merging jazzy harmonies with typically Brazilian elements that he researched quite seriously. That’s the case with "Matita Perê" and "Urubu", released in the 70s, both emphasizing the link between Tom’s harmonic sophistication and his quality as a lyricist. Those two records feature "Águas de Março", "Ana Luíza", "Lígia", "Correnteza", "O Boto", Ângela". In the same period he started making duo albums: "Elis e Tom", "Miúcha e Tom Jobim" and "Edu e Tom". "Passarim", from 1987, is the masterpiece of an established composer, who, by then, was able to dwell on his music without fear of experimenting. Besides the title track, "Gabriela", "Luíza", "Chansong", "Borzeguim" and "Anos Dourados" (with Chico Buarque) also made their way into the charts. It isn’t an easy task to pick Jobim’s most significant albums. All of them bring at least a little something that is different, innovative or special.
His last CD, "Antônio Brasileiro", was released in 1994, little before his passing away in December, in the US. Some available biographies are: "Antônio Carlos Jobim, um Homem Iluminado", by his sister Helena Jobim; "Antônio Carlos Jobim - Uma Biografia", by Sérgio Cabral and "Tons sobre Tom", by Márcia Cezimbra, Tárik de Souza and Tessy Callado.
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