January 25th marks the birthday of a very special person, a true genius that brought the small neighborhood of Ipanema, in Rio de Janeiro to the world map. Antonio Carlos Brasileiro Jobim is one of those iconic musicians whose reputation needs no introduction.
His work goes far beyond the legacy of Bossa Nova and largely describes the changes that took place in Brazilian music of the 20th century. Originally influenced by samba, Jobim is part of the team that consolidated MPB as a genre (Brazilian Popular Music, the genre is often classified as Brazilian Jazz by international critics). Not by chance Chico Buarque, another brilliant musician refers to Jobim as “his sovereign maestro”.
Jobim would reserve a special place for samba in his latest works in a settling of accounts with his own personal story, especially after years living in New York. A true Brazilian even in his family name, Tom embodies Leonardo da Vinci’s maxim that defines simplicity as the highest degree of sophistication. His songs, whose most distinguishing feature were the highly sophisticated harmonies, are also easy to listen to, with their striking melodies and ingenious lyrics.
He was the first one of the Bossa Nova “Dream Team” to leave the stage of life and, in his honour, January 25th is considered Bossa Nova Day. I thought of a tribute of my own to celebrate Tonzinho (as he was affectionately called by another giant named Vinícius de Moraes), but it was not easy to get out of the classic list-of-favourite-albums-and-songs box, and even that would had been a hard task for me. The reason is simple: his oeuvre is multiple.
Relaxed, as during the early years of Bossa Nova or engaged in the environmental cause, as in the songs on his latest albums, there is a Jobim for every moment. There is a Jobim to sing along (did anyone say Águas de Março?), a Jobim to smile, to dream and even a Jobim for those moments when “it is essential to cry”, as in the verses of the song Caminhos Cruzados (lyrics by life long partner Newton Mendonça, with whom Jobim shares the authorship of many of his greatest hits).
However, there is one aspect of Jobim’s work that perhaps has not yet been given the attention it deserves. In addition to the fantastic content, his albums also used to have very interesting covers. Let´s take Wave as an example. One of Jobim´s best known albums, it was released in the United States in 1967, with graphic design by Sam Antupit and photos by Pete Turner, a renowned photographer in the musical world.
Turner developed a look of his own that would become a real trend. He created abstract compositions instead of the usual posed portraits of the musicians. The result was simple, and yet very appealing (da Vinci strikes again!). The clever and innovative use of colours on the cover of Wave provided a new kind of representation for a new kind of music. By bringing art and music closer to each other, it helped to establish a visual reference for Bossa Nova, as it went through the process of leaving Ipanema and Copacabana to become a genre appreciated worldwide.
See? Even when you think you’ve heard everything about it, there’s still a lot to contemplate in the work of Antonio Carlos Brasileiro Jobim.
Be seeing you!