Thursday, May 17, 2012

Antonio Carlos Jobim - Creator of the "Bossa nova"

Music can noble hints impart, Engender fury, kindle love, With unsuspected eloquence can move, And manage all the man with secret art. ~Joseph Addison

The music says it all. 'Antonio Carlos Jobim' was fondly known as "Tom" Jobim. Antonio Carlos Jobim was born in Rio dio Janeiro, Brazil in 1927. He came from a family with a long cultural tradition. Tom's sister Helena writes in his biography that it was Tom's uncle Marcelo Brasileiro de Almeida who was widely responsible for tapping the artist in him. She recalls that Tom would seek his blessings now and then. He was introduced to classical piano at the age of 14. He originally planned to become an architect, but Fate had different plans for him. Music became his first love and everything else. He would play piano in bars and nightclubs to earn a living, whilst continuing to listen to classical and jazz. He loved the music of Chopin, Debussy and Villa-Lobos. He went on to become an arranger for a record label, but apparently started disliking it. He then started composing and achieved great success; and is regarded as one of the greatest composers/song writers of the the 20th century. He is also known as the Great Romantic Melodist because of the several melodies he created which went on to become the most famous of jazz standards.

How can one - who created a simple rhythmic structure and repeat it over and over again become one of the greatest composers of the 20th century? According to composer Julio Medaglia "Jobim is like Mozart, who at the peak of his creativity composed the simplest most crystalline 'Divertimento for Strings' ". Tom Jobim created a style that bridged the gap between Brazilian and American music in a fresh, yet natural way. In 1956, he achieved his first break for providing part of the score for the play 'Orfeo do Carnival'. His collaboration with American Jazz Saxophonist Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto and Astrud Gilberto was key to his popularity in America. In 1958, he created the "Bossanova" along with Joao Gilberto, which is became a sensation. In 1962, he achieved international recognition for "Desafinado".  For this, he partnered with pianist Newton Mendonca with whom he also composed "One note samba". It is said that they both contributed music and lyrics and had a great partnership.  

According to guitarist/composer Edu Lobo (in an interview), Tom was an early to bed, early to rise sort of person. He would go to bed at 9 and wake up at 5 and practice scales. Tom's house was always open to his friends. When they played music, if he'd like something he would go to the piano and will attempt to learn it. In turn, he would create a new chord which others would learn. If he did not like a tune, he would say "That's cute".

Antonio Carlos Jobim used themes such as love, betrayal, joy and nature. There still exists the old apartment building 107, Nascimento Silva Street where he and his wife lived for sometime. It is here where he composed "Girl from Ipanema" and "Corcovado". He was known to be more fond of recording that touring. Here is an excerpt from the conversation between the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector and Tom Jobim - CL - What is your hidden face? ACJ - The music. The piano in the dark bedroom provided me a possibility of infinite harmony. This is my hidden face. My escape and my shyness inadvertently brought me to the Carnegie Hall spotlights. I always ran away from success, Clarice as the devil runs away from the cross. I always wanted to be the one that never goes onstage. The piano offered me, back from the beach, an unsuspected world with ample freedom -- those keys were all available and I foresaw the roadways opening up to me, everything was licit, and I could go anywhere I wanted as long as went as a whole".

Quoting the maestro in his interview with Clarice Lispector "The most important thing in the world is love. The most important thing to a person, as an individual, is the integrity of the soul, even though from the exterior it may look dirty. As to what is love, love is giving. The one that does not give becomes possessed with self hatred. Lonely love is foolishness". And with that said, he gave the world a repertoire of songs that continue to move people to date. The world was saddened when he died on Dec 2nd, 1994 as a result of cardiac failure. But, Antonio Carlos Jobim's legacy will live on forever.  

Ramya Shankar 

Attempted synthesis for the "Transitioning Vocalist" class at The JazzSchool, Berkeley, Ca.

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