MUSiC: The Wonderful World Of, Jobim, 1965

NB – Earlier today I lamented the gaps in my Jobim survey. And presto! Shortly thereafter the missing albums arrive. So here’s the first gap-filler, Jobim’s second solo album, and the first with his singing on it!

Jobim’s second album starts with the vocal She’s A Carioca, sung mostly in English, with a little Portuguese and some jazz-bossa Scat!This is followed with Agua de Beber, one of the several songs here to join the ranks of Jobim’s jazz/bossa standards, starting in Scat, before continuing in Portuguese.

Apart from the vocals the music and mood are pretty much a smooth continuation from The Composer Of Desafinado Plays. Track three is the slightly nutty Surfboard. The melody in this first version is mellower than his later electric organ version, and whilst I love it for its zaniness, it’s not the strongest track on this album.

Jobim at work.

Useless Landscape (or Inutil Paisagem), sung in English, is rendered here in hyper mellow but otherwise normal m.o. for this era. Whilst this version is perfectly good – it’s a terrific number – quite how great and powerfully emotional this can be isn’t revealed here to best effect here, for my money. I much prefer the much later recording with (I think?) Elis Regina singing.

So Tinha De Ser Com Voce, Tristeza and Felicidade are a string of songs sung in original Portuguese. The first of these is less covered, whilst the second and third are in the middling group of Jobim songs; played often enough, but not quite as frequently as the evergreen standards that Ipanema, Insensatez, Desafinado and such like became.

Bonita makes her first showing here, as track eleven. I think this version, whilst a little blander arrangement wise, finds Jobim in better voice than on the version that opens A Certain Mr Jobim. Having mentioned the arrangements, this time we’re hearing Nelson Riddle, not Claus Ogerman. And overall they are, er… well, less noticeable, on the whole. To some extent they’re not massively different from Ogerman’s, in that we hear strings, flutes, trombones, and it’s all soft, pillowy textures.

But I think Ogerman brings a bit more to the party, so to speak. Riddle’s in the background minimalism is, conceptually, something I like. But one almost feels half the time it’s just not there at all! That’s said, the new to me and rather lovely Valsa Do Porto Das Caixas, a super mellow instrumental, is just Jobim at the piano, with Riddle arranging, and it’s utterly gorgeous!

Nelson Riddle, at work.

After this, I found myself more attuned to Riddle’s m.o. and totally dug what he does with Samba do Aviao. This and the achingly beautiful Por Toda A Minha Vida, the latter just Jobim and his guitar, are both in Portuguese. And this last song, one I’ve always loved from knowing much later versions, is just sublime. Love it!

Riddle and the orchestra are back and in fullest effect for the closing number, Dindi. A terrifically beautiful piece which Jobim sings in English here. The pace is stately, the vibe intensely gorgeous. And though Jobim’s voice wobbles a little. It’s not enough to effect the beauty of the song.

Having reached the end, I’m mightily impressed. Ok, not every single number here, as on The Composer, has become an every day standard. But the musical standard has not dropped at all, even with the advent of Tom’s infamously wobbly vocals (which are more of an issue on the later A Certain Mr album).

I have to admit that the cover image, looking more of a piece with the aberrant Love, Strings & Jobim, had my expectations lowered. I think Riddle does well, but Ogerman seems more Jobim’s arranger soulmate. But overall, like his debut, this is another essential slice of Jobim.

MUSiC: Tide, Jobim, 1970

NB – There are already a couple of gaps in my survey of Jobim’s solo recordings: The Wonderful World of (‘65), and Wave (‘67). I only recently realised I don’t have the former. And the latter I have as a peculiar release on vinyl LP. I’ve decided to fill those lacunae in my slightly old-fashioned way, by ordering them both on CD. When they arrive, I’ll plug the gaps!

I have to confess that I absolutely adore this album. I feel compelled to give it six stars; an honour observant readers of this blog might notice I do occasionally confer upon my real favourites!

Jobim’s collaboration with Ogerman hits the first of several climactic highs on these sessions, for my money. Allmusic gives this album just three stars. Say, wha’? I think they’ve allowed jaded ears/assumptions to cloud their judgement.

There are a number of reasons I particularly love this album. First of all, Jobim plays electric keys – Rhodes/Wurli’, or other? (It’s not specified, sadly) – which add a beautifully warm timbre. Secondly, the core group, Jobim on keys/guitar, plus Ron Carter on bass and Joao Palma on drums, with congas and percussion from Everaldo Ferreira and Airto Moreira, are simply sublime.

Drummer João Palma.*

The bossa nova style is, at heart, quite a laid back and minimalist one, and these guys capture that here utterly perfectly. Listen to Rockanalia, to hear how full and rich a sound this small combo can generate. Thanks in no small part to the dexterous double-bass of maestro Ron Carter.

But I digress with these observations, I guess, from giving the other reasons this is such a particularly fine entry to the Jobim solo catalogue. Like his debut, this is bossa nova in its purest most concentrated form. Unlike his debut, however, every single track of which has become a standard, this has much more relatively obscure material. Some of which is amongst my favourite. Remember is a good example; I’ve got a whole post dedicated to that track (here).

Tema Jazz brings me back from my digressions to yet more reasons this is amongst the best of Jobim’s albums; you can hear that the band and soloists are absolutely smokin’! And the modern CD reissues include a few extra alternative takes (hearing the studio count-ins is quite nice!), which allow one to further appreciate just how great these guys are.

Ron Carter.

Going back ‘to the top’, this album kicks off, as does The Composer of Desafinado Plays, with The Girl From Ipanema. Only this version is quite a bit slower, and morphs through more dramatic transitions, some quite ‘formal’, others pretty ‘impressionist’. Ogerman’s arrangements adding plenty of colour. This highlights how, in the hands of the masters, this material easily bears continual reinterpretation.

Some of the sonic textures we find here have subsequently become clichés of easy-listening. But that’s hindsight. What we have here is the genesis of such combinations. And I for one feel fortunate that I still hear and appreciate them as such. Anyone who can’t discern between the ‘old masters’ and some later by numbers knock-offs hasn’t got ears to hear, in my view.

So, after an ‘imposter’ entry in his catalogue (Love Strings & Jobim), and a slight dip in form with his second foray into vocal material (A Certain Mr Jobim), Tide is, to my mind, a triumphant return to top form, akin to – and actually even better than – his by now classic debut, The Composer of, etc. Very much essential, and a great place to start.

Palma in later life.

*Palma passed not that long ago, in 2016, aged 75. He continued to play till the end.

MUSiC: A Certain Mr Jobim, Jobim, 1967

Until I got The Wonderful World Of, I thought this was the first of Jobim’s albums to put his vocals front and centre. I’ve subsequently realised it’s actually the second. It gets off to a bit of a wobbly start, pitch-wise, with Bonita.

This recording comes just after Jobim’s collaboration with Ol’ Blue Eyes, Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim, also released in 1967. So Jobim had just had a major boost to his profile. Ironically, the earlier version of Bonita, on his second album, is better sung!

After this precarious start, we have Se Todos Fossem Iguais A Você (known as Someone to Light Up My Life, in English) which returns us to the instrumental format of Jobim’s debut solo album, before we are treated to another slightly wobbly vocal. This time, somewhat more aptly, an English language version of Desafinado, entitled Off-Key here.

Claus Ogerman.

Photograph, another vocal, belongs to a very particular part of the Jobim repertoire, in which he spends lots of time having the melody kind of oscillating between two closely pitched notes. Returning to the instrumentals, Surfboard goes a little bit bonkers/off piste, with a very ‘Blackpool organ’ sounding percussively syncopated melodic figure. Claus Ogerman’s arranging gets a tad more baroque on this little oddity.

Once Again (Outra Vez) is less gonzo, but the combo’ of flute and whistling that forms much of the melody, before a bit of Brazilian style scattin’ at the end, is a sonic combination that has become allied in people’s mind with a subsequent musical tsunami of molten gruyere!

And then we’re back to the vocals for Esperanza Perdido (literally ‘lost hope’, but rendered in English as I was Just One More For You). Estrada do Sol returns us to the kind of lush string-soused instrumental bossa vibe of The Composer of Desafinado Plays.

Dom Um Romão, Jobim and Sinatra, 1967.

Finding complete musician credits for these sessions is proving difficult. At present I only know that Jobim sings and plays guitar and keys (he also plays flute, but does he do so here?). Claus Ogerman arranged the strings. Other than that the only credit I’ve found is Dom Um Romão, as drummer. This lack of info’ is annoying!

It must be admitted that Jobim’s early forays into singing as a solo artist aren’t always, strictly in terms of his vocals, the most accomplished or assured. And it would perhaps be a bit churlish to deny that not everyone will warm to his meandering around the melody. As he sings Por Causa Do Voce (Don’t Ever Go Away), you feel his sincerity, which is touching, but boy is his pitch rather approximate!

The album ends on Zingaro, a piece I have a real soft spot for, having first encountered it via the dreamily tragic Bruce Weber Chet Baker doc’, Let’ Get Lost. Not the strongest entry in Jobim’s solo catalogue. I wouldn’t recommend this one as a starting point either. But essential for the fan or devotee of the man and his music.

MUSiC: Love, Strings & Jobim, 1966

Strictly speaking I shouldn’t bother with this. At least not in my current series of posts on Jobim’s solo albums. So, strictly speaking this isn’t part of that series. But as it was on the list of solo albums I started off with, and remains on the Wikipedia list of Jobim’s solo albums, and is included as part of a five album/CD set … I’m going to write it up now anyway.

The arrangements are by Lindolpho Gaya (?) and Eumir Deodato, the latter also playing piano. Other than the presence of his picture on the cover, and the allusions to his name, twice in the albums title/subtitle, the only other things that might locate this in a series of Jobim-related posts are the inclusion of two of his compositions, and the presence of Edison Machado on drums, who played the same role on Jobim’s genuine debut, just a few years earlier.

Anyway, (kind of) moving on from the Jobim series I’m currently writing up, let’s dive into this on its own merits. But, before we do that, let’s address this mis-attribution issue. How and why has this come to be thought of as a Jobim recording? Basically it’s down to the US music biz marketing folk. The Brazilian original, on the Elenco label, told a more honest story (see the two pics below).

The Brazilian Elenco release…
… is more honest about the contents.

As can be seen, the original idea was to use Jobim as the ‘familiar face’, and via his success or celebrity, introduce new Brazilian talent to a wider audience. With typical marketing department crassness, however, this morphed into outright misrepresentation, in pursuit of sales.

Initial US releases not only plastered Jobim’s name everywhere, but credited him as both pianist and guitarist, despite the fact he isn’t on the album as a player at all, but rather as the composer of just two of the twelve tracks.

And even those two tracks are presented here under their English titles, for the US market: Eu Preciso de Voce becomes Hurry Up and Love Me, and Samba Torto is renamed Pardon My English (and both are arranged by ‘Gaya’, about whom I know nothing).

The contrast between the more exotica flavoured opener, Hurry Up And Love Me, which is rambunctious, and the more authentically mellow and laid back bossa nova vibes of tracks two, If You Went Away, and three, the latter the slightly more upbeat jazzy waltz Seu Encanto (or The Face I love), both composed by Marcos Valle, and both arranged by Deodato, is very striking.

Deodato’s arrangements are much more in keeping with the Jobim/Ogerman style, as heard on The Composer of Desafinado Plays.

After Jobim, the two artists/composers most likely to be known outside Brazil are pianist and arranger Eumir Deodato, whose arrangements on this disc are – as just noted above – terrific/very authentically bossa nova, and the then very young Marcos Valle. Other featured artists include Baden Powell, Luiz Eca and Roberto Menescal, and others. Baden Powell’s classic Berimbau gets a good outing, with a pretty fabulous Deodato arrangement, more dramatic and even cinematic than typical of the rest of the album.

The young (pre-hippy haired) Eumir Deodato at work.

Track seven brings Jobim’s work back, but in an odd arrangement, whose exotica stylings – parping low-register brass! – tip over into the overtly comical. Not your typical Jobim stylings at all. This is, I suspect, the mysterious Gaya again. Once again the contrast when we return to the more authentic bossa stylings of Durval Ferreira’s Chuva (Rain) are very striking. This latter number is also notable for the unusual use of harmonica as a melodic lead voice.

A Jobim purist might be annoyed by the con-job of passing this album off as a Jobim solo disc, and it is in itself a bit of a mixed bag, not just on account of being the work of multiple composers, but that of more than one – and quite differing in style – arrangers.

The Deodato arranged stuff is, fortunately, both more plentiful and just plain better/more suited to the material. All of the compositions are presented here, as indeed are the all-Jobim selections on his Composer Plays debut, as instrumentals. And whilst not quite of the uniformly high standard of Jobim’s own such stuff, the other material here does share enough Brazilian bossa/samba DNA to be worth having.

So, bit of a mixed bag, and definitely neither essential, nor a good place from which to start an appreciation of Jobim’s musical genius. But still worth having if you’re a lover of this style and era of Brazilian music, as I am.

MUSiC: The Composer of Desafinado Plays, 1963

Jobim’s solo debut kicks off with an instrumental version of what is undoubtedly his best known number, The Girl From Ipanema. [1] Oddly, though, the album is billed with reference to another and different hit he composed, Desafinado. I’m guessing that the latter had already been a pretty big hit, for someone else?

Just as it might be hard to credit why the album might be billed under a less obvious/famous choice of song, until one knows the history of way back when, it’s even harder to appreciate now, how fresh this music sounded at the time it first appeared. It truly was nova, new.

Up till this point Jobim had been a back room boy, so to speak. That’s not a sexual euphemism, by the way, but a reference to his behind the scenes role as composer, and whatever else (arranger, studio musician, etc.), working on other people’s recordings.

Edison Machado…
… feeling those grooves!

It’s also interesting that the album is entirely instrumental. Jobim’s lyric for Desafinado, the headline song promoting this disc, was all about having a weak off-key voice! Like Donald Fagen many years later, Jobim was, perhaps, a reluctant vocalist! [2]

Amazingly, every single tune on this disc – from opener Ipanema via Insensatez and Samba de Uma Nota So to Desafinado itself – has become part of the contemporary jazz canon. Whether all the compositions were already hits back when Jobim released this album, I don’t know. I suspect probably not.

But such is the respect and love for his work, that every single track here has been played countless times, at jazz gigs and sessions around the world. And they continue to be performed and enjoyed.

George Duvuvier, anchors it all beautifully.

O Morro Nao Tem Vez (Favela), possibly one of the ‘lesser’ tracks – not at all in terms of quality, rather in terms of fame – exemplifies the spare, pared down nature of bossa nova, in the hands of the master. This number is followed here by the better known but equally minimal yet lush Insensatez. Every piece is a gem.

The clichés of easy-listening loungecore decadence, or elevator muzak, something ubiquitous and ‘cheesy’, which have come to haunt this genre – not something I’ve ever had any issues with, personally – are, I suppose, a shame. As they have the potential to mean people won’t recognise this fabulous music for what it really is, achingly sublimely beautiful, laced with saudade.

Jobim (and countless others) would revisit these pieces time and again over the years. Perhaps there are legions of tired renditions of some of this stuff? But they are certainly not to be found here.

Leo Wright & ‘Tom’ Jobim…
… recording Favela, 1963.

The cast of players include American jazz cats such as double-bassist George Duvuvier, locking in with Brazilian baterista, Edison Machado. And Jobim’s signature penchants for flute and trombone are entrusted to Leo Wright and Jimmy Cleveland. Great players making great music.

Also worthy of note is that way back here, in ‘63, we find Claus Ogerman already supplying the luscious yet spare string arrangements. Jobim and Ogerman continued to collaborate for much of their whole lives.

For those with ears to hear, this is an incredible debut. A motherlode of music that countless extremely talented artists and performers have mined for years, never coming close to exhausting the magic these compositions can potentially reveal.

‘Bone appetit, Jimmy Cleveland!

When it comes to the platters that really matter, this one is history in the making, and is totally essential.

NOTES.

[1] According to the Wikipedia entry on the song, The Girl From Ipanema is the second most recorded song of all time, just behind The Beatles’ Yesterday.

[2] We can hear him vocalising along to his piano solo on Vivo Sonhando, bless him!

FiLM REViEW: Secret Window, 2004

Not happy with Identity, Teresa demanded that we watch another movie (which she fairly promptly fell asleep to!). That wound up being Secret Window, starring Johnny Depp.

Depp’s very popular, I believe. I know he can act (Dead Man, Fear & Loathing). But many films he’s in are too trashy for me (Pirates, etc.), and those perfume ads he does? Eugh! This odd little movie finds him a bit confused as to how to play his part.

Madly enough, straight after Identity, the opening sequence is shockingly deja-vu-ish: sleety snow replaces the rain, but we wind up at another dark, sleazy motel! This opening scene suggests a troubled mind.

Depp is Morton Rainey, a writer in the process of getting divorced, living in a remote and beautiful log cabin style luxury home out in the woods by a lake. Living a lazy bohemian life, with an elderly maid, and writer’s block.

Visited by a hat wearing hick, John Shooter, played by John Turturro, who accuses him of plagiarism, we quickly realise, as Mort tries to deal with the strange scenario, that he’s not a well man. In the end, then, the central conceit of Secret Window is very like that of Identity. Only where the chief character in the latter has multiple others to contend with, Mort just has the one, Shooter.

The denouement is both kind of obvious and predictable. Although, that said, it could go one of two ways. The way it goes is… well, that’d be spoiling it, wouldn’t it?

Watchable, but far from classic, and certainly not essential. Although I score them the same, I think of the two Identity is, perhaps, marginally better. But there’s not much in it.

FiLM REViEW: Identity, 2003

We watched this last night. Quite a star-studded cast. John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Jake Busey, Rebecca DeMornay, Alf Molina. Set on a very rainy night, a bunch of random folk wind up in a motel. And then people start being murdered.

Although it gets off to a quite compelling start, once underway, the first two-thirds of the film are quite familiar territory, in some respects. But there is an undercurrent that’s kind of perplexing, suggesting we might be heading towards a supernatural thriller.

But we’re not, thank goodness! But it’s not far off that. There is a major twist, which kind of turns things upside down, or inside out. I won’t give it away. By the time the film ends, I was both impressed with, and simultaneously somewhat disappointed by, the various turns the movie took.

I liked the rainy setting, and the whole grim dark ambience. The cast and direction are good. It’s pretty dark and violent (my wife Teresa didn’t like it, because of the latter). As it recedes from me, I start to feel it wasn’t quite all that. A good ride whilst watching, with one quite clever idea, but otherwise quite formulaic.

So… downgraded from four to three stars. Entertaining but far from essential viewing.

MUSiC: Giant Steps/The Ole Folks At Home, Taj Mahal, 1969

Released as a double album in vinyl days of yore. Disc one, Giant Steps, is, oversimplifying rather, an electric band blues album, whilst disc two, De Ole Folks At Home, is a solo acoustic ‘roots’ affair.

Recorded/released c. 1969, both albums are brilliant. Taj Mahal’s band at this time features Jesse Ed Davis on lead/rhythm guitar, Gary Gilmore on bass, and Chuck Blackwell on drums. Taj is superb as the band leader, and the guys are simultaneously tight and loose, so to speak. Musically perfect, in that ‘sweet spot’; the Goldilocks zone, neither too little nor too much.

The rootsier solo album.

Both albums mix covers and originals. And some are very trad, esp’ on ‘disc two’, whilst others are interesting adaptations of more modern pieces (Bacon Fat is by Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson of The Band). The energy of Giant Steps is joyful and infectious. The nostalgic introspection of De Ole Folks is warmly reverential, but also refreshingly diverse and invigoratingly raw and fresh.

Really stunningly good music, of a type you don’t hear enough. So much more refreshing and diverse/eclectic than most stodgy modern blues and blues/rock. Taj Mahal is criminally underrated. Like Ry Cooder, with whom he played in The Rising Sons, he’s both ethnomusicologist and superb performer.

Essential listening for awakened ears/minds!

FiLM REViEW: Cold Light Of Day, 1989

With ITV having both ‘Des’ and The Real ‘Des’ viewable on their on-demand streaming service currently, and having watched both recently, I thought I’d revisit this much older film on the same subject.

Cold Light Of Day is remarkable for several reasons, one being how much nearer to the crimes it was – Nilsen was arrested in 1983, the film came out in 1989. The other is that the director, Fhiona Louise was only 21, and still a student, when she made it. Knowing this, it’s really quite impressive.

A great camera angle.

But it must be admitted that, compared with the slicker bigger budget films made since, and all the new information that’s come to light – much of the more recent Nilsen stuff owes lots to the work of Brian Masters, who isn’t in this film at all; it depicts events prior to his involvement – this is a flawed depiction of the historical events.

But thanks to how close to those events it is, first it looks more authentically period, and second it’s impressive in how close it gets, given the more limited knowledge of it all and the only semi-pro nature of the production.

Greenhill is dreadful; Flag, is superb.

One of the most obvious markers of this as a semi-amateur work, in addition to the almost non-existent budget, is the rather overdone acting. Bob Flag* is excellent as Jordan March, the Dennis Nilsen character. But Geoffrey Greenhill, as Inspector Simmons, is – ironically- the worst offender! Or maybe the fuzz really do/did shout and bully suspects as he does?

Given that this was made by a 21 year old student, and almost certainly on a budget that wouldn’t cover the hot beverages on a normal movie, it’s actually extremely impressive. But, at the some time, given we’re all used to much higher production standards, it’s difficult not to find it a tad underwhelming, as well.

Still, it’s worth seeing.

*Bob Flag’s performance is what makes this film, frankly. Intriguingly he was the face of Big Brother in the John Hurt 1984 (a non-speaking part!). And he was a musician (possibly even a drummer?), on and off, as well as an actor. See him being pretty gonzo here.

Flag as Big Brother!

MUSiC: Let It Bleed, Rolling Stones, 1969

Most Stones albums have one or, very often, two bona fide classic tracks, per disc. Usually these are also the hit singles.

Let it Bleed is slightly unusual in that it’s overall stronger than many of their other late ‘60s early ‘70s records, and still has the expected pair of classics – Gimme Shelter and You Can’t Always Get What You Want – but they were neither of them hit singles.

It also belongs to the transitional period over which Brian Jones was tragically unravelling. He was fired from the band as a result of drug-induced unreliability, and died, by drowning, shortly thereafter. A terribly sad waste of talent. And a sign of the times.

Keef n Jagz, 1969.

Mick Taylor joined, as his replacement. The album was pretty much finished, so Taylor only appears on two tracks. Keith Richards doing the lion’s share of axe duties. Whilst Jones was famously both a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, Taylor was more a six-string specialist. So it could be argued that the Stones’ sonic palette shrank a little with the loss/passing of Jones.

But Let It Bleed doesn’t support such an idea, largely thanks to the presence of a sizeable roster of guest musicians. These include Byron Berline, countrifyin’ things on Coubtry Honk, with his fiddle, and Ry Cooder, whose mandolin on Love In Vain adds to the minestrone of Americana influences …

Thanks to much stronger supporting material throughout – sometimes the non-hit Stones stuff can, to me, be very variable quality filler – like Love In Vain, Let It Bleed, Midnight Rambler, even the jammy feeling You Got The Silver, Let It Bleed is more consistently strong than a good many of the other Stones albums over this classic era.

Up there with the best of The Stones, and definitely recommended.

PS – One funny little footnote is that the cake on the cover was made by the then unknown chef, Delia Smith!