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!

G.F.

Hey there! How are things going? Did you notice how it took me less time show up again after my semi-philosophical approach to cakes and jazz? I know you would! I´m trying, you see? Thank you! By the way, I still haven´t tried a new recipe, but I will keep you informed, don´t worry.

It is a good thing that I have you fully attention now, because I am starting our reflection today with a question: have you ever realized how comic book superheroes save Hollywood from time to time? Well, my theory (I have a lot of them, you know) is that Bossa Nova plays the same role of lending prestige to pop star careers.

In both cases, there´s a solid base of die-hard fans that will be at least interested in checking up (meaning clicking and possibly sharing) the new movie or single. A quite tempting and always welcome extra boost to any project, specially in the current three-second attention span society.

But what happens next? I wonder how this strategy actually helps building either a movie or a jazz audience. A long term, proactive, well informed consumer is kind of different from being a die hard fan. One does not exclude the other, they are maybe even complementary, but they are not the same thing.

Take my personal example: I am a comic consumer since my childhood and they became my research topic (you can check my research activities here) at the University. I even posses a small collection at home and I am always looking for comic stores when I visit a new city. Yet, I am not interested in superhero movies.

A similar thing happens concerning Bossa Nova: I am not only a huge fan of it, but I´m also an enthusiast about the current developments of the genre and I always include Bossa Nova songs in my performances. As the great Brazilian singer and composer Alcione says: “Samba is a cousin of Jazz” and since Bossa Nova has Samba in its DNA, for me they are all part of a big family. And yet, I am not interested in each and every pop remix using samples of Jobim for more than the three-second attention span.

In one line: you can borrow prestige for a while, but you cannot keep it forever.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Karma Chameleon is one of the hits of the 1980´s UK new wave band Culture Club. Bandleader Boy George once said in an interview it was “about the terrible fear of alienation that people have, the fear of standing up for one thing. (…) Basically, if you aren’t true, if you don’t act like you feel, then you get Karma-justice, that’s nature’s way of paying you back.”

The song came to my mind last week, when dear musician friend S. asked: “What is it, that makes you so passionate about Jazz?”. Good one, don´t you think? The kind of question that demands some time of reflection. My answer was: “It makes me feel at home”. I thought it was quite a clever one, somehow enigmatic, sincere without being obvious, but then I got greedy and added: “And a bit of Karma, as well.” Do you know the saying: There is no greater disaster than greed?

S. asked me to elaborate. Karma, jazz, home. Each one of these words represent a complex concept, but first of all, I shall clarify that I meant Karma not as fate, but rather as destiny, your mission, you know, the one thing that you got to do in order ‘to be true’. So far, so good? Great! Now read the title of the post again and I will explain the ‘feeling at home’ part.

Chances are you´ve recognized the first original verse of ‘Desafinado’ (Off Key), by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça, worldly famous in the voice of João Gilberto. The lyrics begin with: ‘If you say my singing is off keymy love…’, a sentence that resonates to most comments to my singing style made during my childhood and teenage years. Unfortunately, I did not know this tune so well by then and therefore lost the opportunity of replying using another verse of it: ‘Isso é Bossa Nova, isso é muito natural’ (this is Bossa Nova, naturally).

I do remember quite well though, saying to playmates who claimed I was always “changing the songs” and “singing them wrong” that there was no point at all in simply imitating the singers. How old was I? Six, maybe seven. A little jazzy soul trying to explain that it don´t mean a thing, if you ain´t got that swing. Did they get me? Nope. Nor did many musicians who crossed my way during my learning years.

Sometimes it takes a while to find your way home but, once there, it all makes sense.

Be seeing you!

G.F.