Monday, April 14, 2008

Mondo Monday -- Tom Jobim and Edu Lobo

As a composer, Antonio Carlos Jobim – known better as Tom Jobim in Brazil – has almost no equal in 20th century music.

Often called his country's George Gershwin, one could argue the impact of this incredible composer during his 67 years on earth was greater . While Gershwin was able to bridge classical music and jazz, and thus bring more respect to this uniquely American art form, Jobim accomplished a far more difficult task. He not only invented Bossa Nova, but was almost singlehandedly responsible for popularizing this genre within a American musical culture almost totally closed off to foreigners. And he did it without compromising his vision as a composer.

I know. I know. You've already heard this before.

As a recording artist, however, Jobim was a bit more iffy. His late 60s collaborations with Frank Sinatra were wonderful. As was his 1974 album with Elis Regina, Elis & Tom. Otherwise, if you were a Bossa Nova purist (like me), Jobim could be a frustrating artist. While some really dig his collaborations with arrangers such as Claus Ogerman, beginning with 1963's The Composer of "Desafinado" Plays…, I'm more lukewarm. The strings and the horns always seem a little over the top and schmaltzy. It's stuff like this that has made many Americans wrongly equate Bossa Nova with elevator music.

For my taste, the purest and best Bossa Nova always exists in an acoustic jazz format – three to four musicians at most to show off the pure simplicity of this wonderful music. Sadly, Jobim didn't record too many of these kind of albums.

There is one CD, however, that has gained a hallowed place on my iPod: Edú & Tom (1981), an album recorded 13 years before Jobim's death in 1994. As the title states, it's a collaboration between Jobim and the guitarist Edú Lobo, best known for co-authoring the Bossa Nova hit "Arrastão" with Vinicius de Moraes.

It's a warm and intimate session – one that sounds like Lobo and Jobim got together one Saturday morning and jammed. Not that there's anything hot and heavy here. This is the soft and gentle Bossa Nova that Jobim made famous. And both Lobo and Jobim get a chance to perform some of their better known songs with just a piano, drums, guitar and bass – and the occasional flugelhorn solo from the great Márcio Montarroyos. You can hear Montarroyos, who died this past December, in fine form in a softly swinging remake of "Chovendo na Roseira" ("Double Rainbow") that features Lobo singing Jobim's poetic lyrics.

Play "Chovendo Na Roseira" by Edu Lobo and Tom Jobim

The two also take on one of Lobo's best known pieces, "Pra Dizer Adeus," ("To Say Goodbye"), a subdued ballad bathed in melancholy.

Play "Pra Dizer Adeus" by Edu Lobo and Tom Jobim

My favorite track on the album is the rollicking opener, "Ai Quem Me Dera," (roughly "He Who Gives To Me") ,an almost always overlooked Jobim classic that deserves to be accorded the same acclaim as "The Girl From Ipanema," "Aguas de Março," "Desafinado" and "Agua de Beber."

Play "Ai Quem Me Dera" by Edu Lobo and Tom Jobim

Because it never was released in the United States, you have to really hunt for this album – or be prepared to shell out more than $30, as on Amazon. But believe me. It's well worth it for Bossa Nova purists like me.

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